Rwf7 billion digital content project for schools stalls

Pupils operate computer at Mère du Verbe Primary school in Gasabo District. Nadege Imbabazi.

A project meant to introduce digital content in primary and secondary schools has hit a snag after it emerged that the contractor was in the process of distributing substandard content.

In the 2016/2017 fiscal year, the Rwanda Education Board (REB) awarded a $7.7 million (Rwf7 billion) tender to Hicommands Pvt Limited – a subsidiary of India’s Hicommands Tech India Limited – to develop a system to supply and install digital content in school computers and other machine readable materials.

REB has since suspended the project, citing unacceptable content.

The move to suspend the project also aimed at averting possible loss of public funds, REB says.

The revelations first emerged last week when senators summoned officials in the Ministry of Education to explain, among other things, why the education budget for this year was not being used as expected.

The senators said that only 27 per cent of the budget to integrate ICT in education had been used yet the year was coming to an end.

The senators also wanted to be updated on the progress on the implementation of the competency-based school curriculum.

The Director General of REB, Irénée Ndayambaje, told The New Times that an evaluation of the content that had been provided by the consultant revealed that it had the potential to stimulate genocide ideology.

Hicommands describes itself as a provider of high-quality e-learning solutions to corporate organisations and educational institutions worldwide. It says it delivers robust, reliable and cost-effective IT solutions.

However, Ndayambaje questioned the quality of content that was provided such as confusing the current national flag with the previous one.

Ndayambaje added that REB’s efforts to offer support through collaboration with the consultant hit a dead end.

“We wanted to visit them so that we work closely with them, but we did not succeed,” he said.

The New Timeshas established that Hicommands was given the deal through an open tender, a bidding process in which all qualified bidders are allowed to compete.

Documents seen by The New Times show that only Hicommands Pvt Ltd bid for the deal.

Efforts by The New Times to contact Hicommands were unsuccessful.

Several emails sent to the company were not responded to while our calls to a mobile telephone number provided on their website went unanswered.

The Minister of State in charge of Primary and Secondary Education, Isaac Munyakazi, said that; “We have the means to monitor such problems so that we don’t face similar problems.”

The project was part of efforts by the Government to integrate ICT in the education sector through, among other initiatives, to avail digital books to supplement smart classroom initiative.