Rwanda: Computers for Everyone
The New Times (Kigali)
10 February 2008
Posted to the web 11 February 2008
Paulus Kayiggwa And James Buyinza
Much excitement surrounds the arrival of ten computers at a centre adjoining the Remera Catholic School. Children struggle to be the one sitting in front of the new screens.
They are no teachers or supervisors, just children and computers. The centre which was opened in October last year is part of a project run by the ministry of education, in association with Hole in the Wall Education Limited, an Indian organization.
The scheme was initiated in India a few years ago. The researchers behind the project gave no explanations. They just wanted to see what the children would make of the computers. The learning center is part the ministry of education’s initiative of using information and communication technology (ICT) to draw street children into schools. The computers were donated by MTN. The centre is not part of the school but it has served to attract street children into class, explained Hyacinthe Mukantabana, the director of Remera Catholic.
"Because of this learning center, attendance is stabilizing," she said. Children at Ecole Primaire Remera Catholic School expressed their happiness towards the learning center saying that they are lucky to be able to learn how to use computers outside class. Agnes Uwera, 12, says that she had never even seen a computer but now she is teaching herself how to use one.
The computers offer a number of programmes including lessons on hygiene and sanitation, and the prevention of HIV/Aids. There are also games available. The computers are on offer to anyone, there is no fee and no time limit.
Athanase Mugwaneza, a local resident, says that during his leisure time he walks to the centre to teach himself various computer skills required in this modern era of global computerization. "I never went to school but I am now being given an opportunity to teach myself basic computer skills," Mugwaneza said. "We hope to install more computer kiosks to attract street children and some school dropouts join school," Joseph Murekeraho, the state minister in charge of primary and secondary education said in an interview at his offices.
Murekeraho said the initiative was in line with the government programmes of transforming the economy from agriculture based to a technologically service economy. Education minister, Dr. Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamarya, said that the ministry and the Indian government have embarked on an initiative to put up many computer kiosks in all primary schools located in Kigali slum areas, where the number of street children is high.
She hopes that system would prevent street children from descending into a life of crime. Such basic skills could well be their only way out.