As Rwanda positions itself to become an ICT hub, many young people are involved in tech development with the aim of innovating products that provide solutions to global challenges. Sunday Magazine’s Solomon Asaba caught up with one of them, Frank Muhiza, a C developer of the school of management system, a program that allows both teachers, students, administrators and parents to interface online within education circles. Here is what he had to say.
Could you tell us about your project and how you came to develop the idea?
A few years ago when I was still in high school, I realised that teachers and administrators faced a lot of challenges dealing with students. Even at my former school, some teachers and directors had no way of making their work easier. I developed this project to cover all activities that can be done at school.
By using this project, you can process a report, make remarks, communicate with the parents and manage the school timetable. It is also easier to deal with the financial activities to understand how students are paying or how parents are responding. This way, you keep the information of all students electronically instead of rudimental methods that involve a lot of paper work. On top of this the system ensures that you have the right signatures and in any school.
Have you rolled it in schools already?
Yeah, we are working with some schools and these are supposed to give us a feedback. It is already in schools like Kagarama, and many others who have already given us feedback. They are over 15 schools, most of them are in Kigali but we are planning to roll it all over the country.
Of course the other issue is that some schools are not ready despite having interest in the project. Others will tell you that we are not ready to invest in such a project. Fortunately, we are not back tracking, we are keeping in touch with all potential clients. Those who have already requested for additional features are also working closely with us.
Is there an additional product to this system?
After the school management system, we will build another project but it is all in the same package. This is like e-learning which means simply take the school and put it online. Teacher, student, administrators, they meet on the system. This way the teacher can manage the class, give the students homework or any other assignments. The other good thing about this additional part is that they get to consult the teachers too.
So what level of students are you targeting with this platform?
Our first target is every student and we are planning that with the available infrastructure. All students that have laptops should be able to get this system. It is all a matter of collaboration because government is distributing computers to all students and by having such projects, education even becomes better.
This digital platform comes with extra financial implications; don’t you think this is a challenge in itself?
We are sure that the quality of the product is good. If a customer feels like using it, there is freedom for him or her to decide how it should be customized. After seeing how useful it is, then we can tell you the costs. Schools do not have the same budget, while others feel free to spend, others may not look at things that way. If we are dealing with all these schools, we need to be flexible because remember we also have schools from the 9-year basic education that we would want to be part of this transition.
The project is a big one, and can be used to view all schools from primary to universities. For example the whole education system here in Rwanda can be put online. The more schools use it, the more people become interested.
So what are the other challenges you are facing?
Not everyone understands the future of technology especially here in Rwanda. Getting someone who can understand this system is not easy but the good thing is that learning is not that difficult. The other thing is that schools are wary about the infrastructure not knowing that the computer labs they have could even be enough for the start. They need to be in it this way.
We have seen incidences of students cheating through digital platforms and in this era of smart people like you, isn’t there a possibility that hackers can crack into the system?
When you are programming, the first thing to ensure is security. If that is not there, then there is nothing to write home about the system. You have to make sure that the system is strong and the information is kept very well.
For example this system has report processing meaning that no one can come to change his or her marks. The first thing therefore we ensure is security of the system.