The Rwandan government has over time cultivated a reputation as one that supports the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as a tool to steer the country’s development goals. The claims that Rwanda is a regional ICT hub are not new and can be linked to the zeal shown by the government in this direction.
The current competition brought by new telecom providers like Rwandatel and Tigo has eased access to mobile phones. The advantages of using mobile phones are so numerous however; the technology has proved to be a huge disciplinary challenge in the school system.
Almost all schools do not permit their students to possess mobile phones on school premises. This is done to ensure that students concentrate on their academics and not be distracted by these gadgets. With each passing day, ensuring that the above rule is adhered to is proving to be tougher for school authorities.
This is largely because the prices of mobile phone handsets have continued to fall thanks to the competition between the providers and the emergence of cheaper Chinese-made handsets. This means that some students can now afford to buy phones off the pocket money from their parents. Others get the handsets from their parents or suitors in the case of girls.
It is also clear that many students now fancy owning a mobile phone regardless of what the rule book says. Not surprising though is the fact that a good number of parents are in support of their students bringing mobile phones to school.
The excuse here is that they (parents) need to communicate with their children and that there is nothing wrong with a child owning a phone ‘these days’. What these parents forget is that schools are not run according to ‘these days’ but set rules and regulations aimed at ensuring that discipline and order prevail in the school setting.
It is unfortunate that parents who are supposed to instil discipline in their children before sending them to school have now decided to do the opposite by buying mobile phones for their children and letting them take the gadgets to school. These parents are basically very comfortable with aiding their children to break school rules!
The problem with mobile phones in schools does not only lie with the fact that it is against school rules for students to own them. Mobile phones simply distract students from the main academic goals that brought them to school in the first place.
A student with a mobile phone at school cannot be expected to ignore the numerous programmes from friends, relatives and lovers that come in through SMS and phone calls.
A student will be informed of minor family engagements like birthday parties and reminded not to miss. Such messages compel students to lie to authorities in order to get permission to leave school to attend to such non-academic and clearly less important issues.
As if that is not enough, nothing aids cross-generational sex more than the mobile phone. It is common for older men to call their younger school-going girlfriends telling them to seek permission to leave school and to meet them outside school for nothing short of evil.
More so, many students who smuggle phones are also known to have gotten these phones from lustful older men as gifts in exchange for love or sex. This exposes such students to sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies.
I am glad that the Minister of State for Primary and Secondary School Education, Dr. Mathias Harebamungu is aware of the mobile phone problem and did not hesitate to confiscate and destroy phones from students. When a student is at school, he/she ought to focus fully on academics.
Any important communications can and should be channelled through the school administration. There should not be a compromise when it comes to discipline as this eventually affects their academic performance.