Rwanda to give 1 laptop to every teacher by 2025

Rwanda RBEB DG

The Rwanda Basic Education Board (RBED) has set 2025 as the deadline for its ambitious effort to provide every teacher with a laptop. This development coincides with the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goal (4) which strives to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” 

At the country’s initial Teachers’ Innovation Day held at the Kigali Convention Center, Nelson Mbarushimana – Director General of the RBED said “By 2025, our target is to achieve a ratio of 1 laptop per teacher. As we also embark on the journey to digitize our textbooks, it becomes vital for teachers to have a laptop as a tool to effectively engage and interact with the digital environment, both inside and outside the classroom.” 

Among the many objectives of Rwanda’s Vision 2020 project was the dream of shifting from an agrarian subsistence economy to a knowledge-based one. The ICT sector is a key component in a knowledge-driven economy, so continuous investments in the former will help actualize the latter.  Vision 2050, the successor of Vision 2020 also underscores the need for a knowledge-based economy.

Mbarushimana further said that since the 21st century kicked in, more countries have adopted an ICT-led approach to teaching because it was in line with today’s world. “At REB, we have adopted a blended mode of teaching, where teachers can deliver lessons either physically or online,” he mentioned. 

With increased digital learning comes concerns about stable broadband connectivity, especially in Rwanda where internet penetration is 30%. Getting teachers laptops is smart, but without a solid network infrastructure, not much can be achieved. Clarifying this concern alongside a call from teachers over the low number of available laptops, Mbarushimana revealed that efforts were underway to increase internet coverage and widen access to the laptops. 

In February this year, Paula Ingabire – Minister of ICT and Innovation – revealed that Rwandan schools would be among the first users of Starlink, a satellite internet service that also launched in Nigeria and Mozambique. More African nations are expected to be connected soon. The RBEB also confirmed that 25,000 laptops would be allocated this year. 

Rwanda teachers holding laptops
Rwanda teachers holding laptops

Since 2015, Rwanda has acknowledged the merits of a competency-based curriculum. Essentially, it’s a practical approach that teaches students what they should do instead of what they should know. This will help churn out more problem-solvers that’ll contribute greatly to the economy’s growth. Unsurprisingly, the new syllabus encompasses Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), a discipline that encourages hands-on activities over theory learning. 

But then, migrating one’s educational sector to a technological landscape is difficult, especially when teachers – individuals on whom the future of a nation’s education rests – don’t have ICT skills. To tackle this challenge, the RBEB’s boss claimed educators in the country would “undergo training and acquire the necessary skills and knowledge.” He also stated that digitizing the classroom experience would ensure students can “recall lessons for the long term through the use of audio and visual aids.” 

Read also: Skoolmedia Donates Laptops and Security Gadgets to Federal Science and Technical College, Yaba

Rwanda’s road to an education revolution began many years ago

The East African nation’s desire to revolutionize the education sector with technology dates back to 2008 when the government launched the One Laptop Per Child project, an initiative designed to equip Rwandan schoolchildren with “rugged low-cost, low-power laptops” that would significantly improve the nation’s educational sector. This project placed Rwanda at par with Uruguay and Peru, two other countries that had implemented the same scheme. 

However, there have been calls for teachers to also benefit from this empowerment scheme. One can be traced to the same year when the One Laptop Per Child policy was launched. 

Stephen Rwembeho – a journalist – wrote these striking lines “The recent introduction of one laptop per child in Rwanda is indeed a promising move that needs strong backing. The government and the donors involved, take the credit deservedly. However, a number of factors come into play, for the whole initiative to be effective. And unless such factors are strictly considered we shall only witness a ‘cosmetic change’ in the end.” 

It’s hard to disagree with Rwembeho’s argument, especially when teachers are the bedrock of a child’s education. Perhaps they, too, should have been captured in the laptop program back then. Rwanda’s government eventually listened, and in April 2021, a similar project titled “One Laptop Per Teacher” saw the light of day. 

Rwanda NST1

While reading the concept note of the One Laptop Per Teacher scheme, the introduction states that one of the major reasons why the administration chose to equip teachers with modern-day teaching skills through technology stemmed from the fact that “most of the projects only focused mostly on technology for the learners, hence the teaching pedagogy using ICT was not quickly adopted.” 

It further stated that while teachers were not previously empowered to drive the education disruption, the situation should change with the laptops. 

The government has also been intentional about the establishment of smart classrooms. Part of its National Strategy for Transformation (NST1) is to “scale up SMART classrooms and ICT devices as well as the use of the new competency-based curriculum.” There’s also the Smart Education project which aims to provide internet connectivity to 3,000 schools. 

Bottom line 

Rwanda’s strides in embedding technology in the learning process resonate with its intent to become a knowledge-based economy. As more teachers benefit from its laptop empowerment strategy, it’s worth examining the viability of its 2025 target. Also worth keeping an eye on is the state of its ICT infrastructure which, thanks to the emergence of Starlink, should bridge the internet gap. 

The nation has plenty to benefit from a knowledge-based economy. Aside from reducing its dependence on external aid, constant investments in ICT for learning will see its education sector churn out graduates with in-demand skills which will aid the much-desired shift from a purely agrarian lifestyle to other sectors. 

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