Rwanda is trying to become the third country to roll out XOs to all of its primary-school children, after Peru and Uruguay. The eventual aim is to make Rwanda the high-tech hub of Africa, beating out even South Africa. Here is an excerpt from an update on the situation.
It’s been over two years that the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project, under the Ministry of Education, started the distribution of XO laptops, as they are officially called, to children of P4 to P6 across the country. As many as 105,000 XO laptops have already been deployed so far.
However, only 185 out of 2,388 public primary schools have so far been served mainly due to the fact that the majority still has no electricity (only 473 do, although a program of setting up solar power in the remaining ones is being rolled out)…
Until now, students were being introduced to the pre-loaded general content, most of the time unrelated to the curriculum. Yet this is changing, and the integration of the curriculum is already being carried out.
“The integration of curriculum is a fundamental step in our strategy,” says Nkubito Bakuramutsa, the OLPC Coordinator. “The idea of integrating technology in schools goes beyond just the deployment of laptops. It is a full transformation of the role of the teacher who becomes a facilitator, a moderator between the digital knowledge in laptops and the students.”
We used to get a lot of complaints that Nicholas Negroponte claimed that the XO was a silver bullet for education and ending poverty, that he claimed that nothing else was needed, such as electricity, Internet access, curriculum development, support, maintenance and repair, or teacher training. It is true that the OLPC and its Sugar software were designed to work in schools that did not have adequately-trained teachers, even in the absence of Internet connections, and that they are having successes in such situations. But Rwanda is demonstrating precisely what Nicholas intended: We provide what nobody else can provide, and governments do what they already know how to do in order to provide the rest.
Peru and Uruguay are considered middle-income countries, with Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of $4,710 and $10,590 respectively. Rwanda is far less developed, with GNI of $540. It just shows you what political will is worth in a country that truly understands that it cannot afford continued poverty.