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14/10/2013

MKU sponsors House Team to Rwandan Laptop schools.

The Parlimentary Committee on Education is on a three-day familiarization tour of Rwanda's primary schools laptop project.

Headed by its chairperson Sabina Chege, the committee seeks to with best practices, insights on the practicality of the project, and challenges, as the Kenyan government prepares to issue laptops to Standard One pupils beginning January, 2014.

The tour is sponsored by Mount Kenya University's Institute of Capacity Building. Rwanda applies the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) method of bringing digitization to schools, invented by Massachusetts Institute of
Technology Professor Nicholas Negroponte in 2005. It is a low-cost laptop ($200 a piece) that allows a multi-media approach to learning. Besides Rwanda, the OLPC is also used in Peru and Uruguay.

The Kenya laptop project, which envisions a free laptop for every Standard One pupil next year, has been mired in controversy. The Sh52 billion earmarked for the project (Sh15 billion in the first phase) is seen in some political quarters as a case of misplaced priorities in expenditure, considering the lack of adequate infrastructure to support the project. Hiring more teachers and building classrooms especially in marginalized areas are seen as more urgent educational issues vis a vis purchasing laptops.

"But seeing the Rwanda model, its affordability and how it has transformed learning and general development even in the remotest of areas, time is ripe for Kenya to roll out the project," said NkubitoBakuramutsa, National Coordinator, OLPC. "This is a great equalizer especially where the disparity between urban and rural teachers is great."

He says that Kenya should not be worried out infrastructure, especially lack of electricity in rural areas to power the laptops. "The Rwanda experience shows the development went in tandem. Where we aimed to roll out the project, electrification followed and this has proven beneficial to the whole community."
Rwanda has 200,000 laptops in over 400 schools. Its school laptop project is ranked first in Africa and third in the world. "More than just placing the laptops in the hands of pupils, the programme includes a massive capacity building exercise for teachers on both basic ICTs but also and more importantly the methodology of teaching using digital content," says MrBakuramutsa.

So far, the OLPC Programme has trained close to 10,000 teachers providing them with the tools to access content on servers and equipping them with the ability to improve students' understanding of complex concept in mathematics and science through visualization and interactivity provided by digital lessons. "The programme also enables teachers to improve their own knowledge with various e-books and language lessons," says MrBakuramutsa.

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