Microsoft and Rwanda in deal to promote technology in schools

By Denise Tuyi | The East African December 6, 2016

The Rwandan government and Microsoft have entered a three-year partnership under which they will ensure at least two smart classrooms in every secondary school in the country. The move forms part of efforts to exploit technology in streamlining the delivery of education in Rwanda.

The project falls under Microsoft’s Rwanda connectivity programme that is supporting provision of affordable wireless Internet to schools in the country.

Alongside 150 Microsoft academies that are being set up to train teachers, students and local communities in digital literacy and productivity certifications, 1,500 smart classrooms or two for every secondary school, will be deployed in the initial phase.

Only 9 per cent or 531 schools in Rwanda currently have access to Internet and according to education minister Dr Musafiri Papias Malimba, the programme that is expected to have reached more than three million students and 61,000 teachers across the country’s 3,500 schools by 2020 will lower the cost of delivering the curriculum and learning materials to schools and improve learning outcomes.

Two schools — Lycee de Kigali and the School of Economics and Business at the University of Rwanda —participated in the pilot phase.

Under the partnership, the Rwandan government will pay just $1.5 (Rwf1,217) for Microsoft software for each computer in the schools under the programme, discounted from $70 (Rwf56,831). The government is meeting 20 per cent of the overall cost of the project with Microsoft picking the remaining 80 per cent.

In Kenya the Microsoft team delivers connectivity for Ksh300 (Rwf2,348) per month.

On what schools the programme will cater for, Mark East General Manager of Microsoft Global Sales and Operations said, “All of our programmes are the same for private and public institutions.”

The smart classrooms package consists of computers, content that is the curriculum in digital format and facilitation to teachers on how to use and disseminate the curriculum.

With an intended 1,500 smart classrooms to be deployed that is 2 in every secondary school the road is long and as Dr. Malimba put it, “We shall renew the agreement as often as can be to make it a long-term project.”

On other projects that already underway in the education sector such as the one laptop per child and the Positivo Dr Malimba said, “Since ICT is a revolution in itself we can only keep them going, there is no stopping.”

“No wastage of resources as they can all go back to the lab be utilised again,” Mr East added,

Rwanda is among the African countries Microsoft international has partnered with. The others in East Africa are Tanzania and Uganda which are also in the pilot phase.

On the importance of smart classrooms to Africa’s fourth industrial revolution, Mr East said, “In the past Africa has been excluded in this technology where a teacher can teach with ease. To the end we are preparing the children for the workforce and job creation for tomorrow and the question is can technology help with that, and that is what we want to achieve.”

Outside of Africa some successful smart classrooms are taking centre stage in the learning atmosphere with the pioneer in revolutionary education Finland scrapping off subjects already.

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