EDITORIAL: School laptop programme should not be threatened by mere thieves

When The One-Laptop-Per-Child (OLPC) programme was introduced as part of the government’s strategy to digitize the education sector, many school administrators were not prepared.

The laptops were supposed to be used in “smart classrooms” where the traditional blackboard would be replaced by a digital screen that would interact with the laptops.

The first hurdle the programme encountered was lack of skills. Many of the teachers were computer-challenged as they had no prior access to computers because of the high cost involved in owning one. So the teachers first had to be taught computer skills.

No sooner had the OLPC rolled out, it was discovered that some head teachers were not fully utilising them. In some schools, inspectors from the Ministry of Education found them gathering dust.

Then new threats emerged; thieves. The laptops attracted criminals all over the country.

Around Christmas time in 2016, police recovered over 600 computers that had been stolen from Kigali schools. The threats became greater when rural schools became targets.

Now both the police and the Ministry of Education have had enough and have met with head teachers to chart the way forward. Some of the strategies envisioned is engraving them for easy identification, but that is not a lasting solution. The computers could always be sold for their parts and discard the housing afterwards.

What is urgently needed is upgrading security in schools or simply letting each student be responsible for their computers. The simple fact of locking them in one place with minimum security or the possibility of connivance is a thieves dream.

Petty or organized crime should not be enough to derail our digital dream.

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