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Smart classes and improved connectivity; the building of a knowledge-based economy in Rwanda

By: Jason Muhire

Rwanda chose smart classes and connectivity towards building a knowledge-based economy.

On July 13, Christine Niyizamwiyitira, Head of the ICT-in-Education department at REB, announced that connectivity in secondary public schools will reach 62% at the end of this year. This is in a bid to implement the National Strategy for Transformation which provides for universal internet connectivity in public schools by 2024.

“The aim is to improve the connectivity of secondary schools from 52% to reach 62% at the end of this fiscal year 2020-2021. The cost to connect the outstanding 48% is estimated at 4 billion Rwandans francs,” she said.

Rwanda’s choice to invest in space technologies is part of the broader mission to bridge the digital divide by providing equal digital opportunities to rural and remote communities. In that sense, Rwanda and Telecommunication Company One Web launched in February 2019 the “Icyerekezo” satellite -named by students from Nkombo Island- with the aim to connect remote schools to the internet.

Moreover, Rwanda launched the One Laptop Per Child program (OLPC) in June 2008 with the proposed target of providing all students from P4 to P6 access to laptops. According to information from the ministry of education, the OLPC Project favors a community-access approach that enable schools to share the internet cost with various public and private entities that can help fund the cost of operations, repair and maintenance of the internet access routers.

In addition, capacity building of head of schools, teachers and local technicians has been a crucial priority in this endeavor. Thus, these different programs comprised a massive capacity building exercise for teachers on both basic ICTs but also on the methodology of teaching using digital content.

It is worth to highlight that Rwanda was selected last month to lead the “Giga initiative” that aims to connect every school in Africa by 2030. The initiative has several objectives such as mapping connectivity demand, advising on financing possibilities and facilitate partnerships with internet providers. It is an opportunity for Rwanda to speed up her already existing efforts to digitalize schools.

The Rwandan government, through all these initiatives, intends not only to minimize the costs of instruction materials but also to improve the quality of education for students of less privileged backgrounds – while familiarizing them with a constantly evolving environment- by bridging the existing disparities in access to knowledge between public schools and private schools.

The end goal of the 7 Years Government Program and the National Strategy for Transformation is to establish Rwanda as a globally competitive knowledge-based economy. Investing in technology to improve the quality of education for the less privileged is part of the process of building an inclusive, knowledgeable and innovative society.

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