The Ministry of Education’s Secretary General together with the ICT department, has just finished carrying out an evaluation exercise to establish the efficacy of the One Laptop per Child project.
Over 100 Primary Five pupils of Rwamagana B. Primary School benefited from the project, and have been using the computers for the last 10 months.
The evaluation was carried out in preparation to receiving a big consignment of 5000 laptops, and shows some interesting revelations.
The very good news is that the project has been a smashing success. Pupils have used the computers to great advantage, and the packages that came with the laptops have made studying subjects like English Language, Geography and Science easier.
The laptops have gone beyond classroom use and been used at home to teach homefolks – since the children go home with them.
The catch in the project, though, is that there are more pupils than teachers who have the laptops, so profiting from their immense resources has been lopsided as the pupils who have them all the time seem to leap over their teachers in usage as well as knowledge. The pupils have the ultimate reference tools; the teachers do not.
This need not be a disadvantage though. Of course every effort must be made to train and avail teachers with their own laptops – they are much fewer than their pupils and so this should not prevent much difficulty – so that there is meaningful guidance to education. However, pupils should be allowed to explore and experiment with their computers.
The teachers’ role should always be to guide, and never to restrain, anyone who is learning something from the computer even by mere browsing. This also breaks the traditional thinking that teachers are the only repositories of knowledge. But without their guidance, pupils cannot know the appropriate content to read, so the teachers’ central role in the education structure is permanently assured.
The laptop project should actually be expedited by the Education ministry because of its undeniable advantages, for which we would wish a great many of Rwandan school children to benefit from.