The inability to maintain basic infrastructure and other vital facilities has often been given as one of Africa’s biggest cancers. Roads are constructed and let to develop so many potholes until they are practically impassable. The same happens to cars people buy and fail to maintain.
The same situation seems to be prevalent in the school setting. Many times a school is put up and will go for years without seeing a new coat of paint or having any of the broken windows replaced.
The same happens to the beds and even the desks used by the students. Ironically, the school will continue to admit students and even raise the school dues but without having a budget for the repair and maintenance of the school’s facilities.
As part of the government’s commitment to achieve the goals embedded in the country’s Vision 2020, several programmes aimed at promoting ICT have been undertaken. There is the One Laptop Per Child programme that is going on at a steady pace.
The tax waiver of ICT gadgets has also helped a lot.
In a related development, thousands of teachers countrywide have received basic IT training. They are expected to pass on these skills to the young ones they teach.
They are also expected to use the skills gained to improve on the way they go about their profession. For instance, with such IT skills a teacher is expected to be in position to type his/her own exam and the school should be able to produce better report cards and other documents using computers and not the archaic typewriters.
A good number of schools have been beneficiaries of ICT materials like computers, photocopiers and other modern gadgets. There are also schools that have been connected to broadband internet and can now access the World Wide Web without much of a hassle.
All this help has either come from benevolent corporate companies, western donors or even the government itself.
All the above developments point to a very promising future for Rwanda’s education in general.
These efforts need to be supported if at all the intended objectives are to be achieved. However one challenge that seems to be overlooked is that of maintenance. As mentioned earlier, all this good work may yield nothing if the issue of maintenance is not factored in effectively.
I know of schools that have more dead computers than functioning ones. The moment the machine develop a fault, the school administration just moves it to the store. In a few instances a technician will be hired to fix the fault.
But since no one is the school has an idea about computers, the technician will overcharge the school and in the worst case scenario, the technician will also steal vital parts from the machine.
I know a technician who not only overcharged the school he was working for but also charged them for the renewal of its internet service yet he was not even an employee of MTN. He would take the modem with him and return after a couple of days and demand a hefty amount of money.
As I write this, the school no longer has an internet connection and most of its machines are down and good for scrap. The question therefore is how such situations can be avoided in future. To this end therefore the ICT programmes aimed at secondary school teachers ought to include a more technical aspect.
If 20 teachers are trained in basic MS Office applications then at least one or two of them should be taught the basics of hardware engineering. Such a teacher can be in position to regularly check the health of the machines and even act as a check against frauds like the technician mentioned above.
And besides schools too can embark on this goal and have one of their teachers trained to fix basic computer maintenance skills.