Over the past year, the ICT programme at Umubano Primary School has developed rapidly. In January 2016, we had just acquired 30 tablets to bring ICT into classrooms and were planning for the best ways to integrate it into learning. Prior to this, we only had four laptops that had been used primarily for staff training. This January we have classroom connectivity, more than double the number of devices for students to use, partnerships with app providers, and all staff are trained in how to utilise ICT for learning. This is a huge amount of progress in the space of one year, and our plans for 2017 are as ambitious.
The Rwandan government has high aspirations for ICT and education, and ensuring we remain at the cutting edge of this development is key in our mission to develop and implement best practice in the Rwandan setting. We knew that there were several key components to this success: the right hardware, the right software, access to power and internet, of course, and we spent a lot of time making sure these were reliably in place. Most of all, however, we have invested in staff training and technical support to ensure that everyone is confident and making optimum use of the resources. This is not as difficult or expensive as it sounds and the payback is clearly worth it.
One of the key factors in the success of the ICT programme over 2016 was support from external partners, who – amongst other things - supported the design and development of the programme (not least our new ICT Manager, Stephen Odara, from Carnegie Mellon University), providing software for learning (with thanks to Library for All) and donating their time to support in the development of best practice. Another of area of external support has come in the form of the donation of devices, obviously one of the most significant factors for the success of the programme. This support came from Avanade, a technological company based in the UK who has already lent significant support to the UK office. We owe them huge gratitude for the donation of 39 smart phones at the end of last year, which have taken the programme forward in our understanding of how ICT can enhance learning opportunities for both teachers and students.
In December, Country Director Amy, and ICT Manager Stephen attended a conference in Kigali hosted by Microsoft. They learned about a number of things, the most interesting of which was how Office 365 could be used by students as a personal learning platform. When the mobile phones arrived from Avanade equipped with Windows, Amy and Stephen saw this as an opportunity to test out what they had learned and see whether UPS’s learners could benefit from the programmes offered within. Stephen is now busy setting up the phones, and before term started in January, teachers were given a brief introduction to Office 365, with the plan being to start using the phones as soon as possible to support classroom learning.
Outside Umubano Primary School, there are also exciting things happening regarding APIE and ICT in Rwanda. Amy is now sitting on the ICT 4 Education Working Group at the national level, working with other contributors at the Ministry of Education in Kigali to support the development of the ICT curriculum throughout Rwanda. In addition to this, Umubano Primary School has been invited to apply to become a Microsoft Showcase School, and is now exploring the possibility of linking with a large international NGO to develop a Live Streaming video project for delivering model lessons to schools and Early Childhood Centres in rural Rwanda. These things are exciting in their own right, but are also enormously significant as part of APIE’s mission to disseminate what has been developed and learned at Umubano Primary with the Rwandan education community, for the benefit of students and teachers all over the country.
So, with all this happening, be sure to watch this space! And as always, if you would like to be involved in the development of this key project then please get in touch or donate to the programme here.