Rwanda to open OLPC learning centre

Rwanda is set to be the home of a pilot learning centre for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project in Africa following the country’s progress in promoting the use of computers in schools.

In addition to helping Rwanda achieve its objectives in promoting ICT in education, the centre will also act as a reach-out centre for the whole African region.

The centre will be located at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology and will be called the OLPC Learning Centre.

“We are working on the details of the centre,” said Juckie Lustig of OLPC public relations.

Rwanda has been promoting the use of computers in its education system and has so far ordered 100,000 laptops worth more than US$18 million from the OLPC initiative.

OLPC group has agreed to start the learning centre in Rwanda to support the use of the computers in Rwanda and other African countries. Countries in Africa including South Africa, Nigeria and Ethiopia have also ordered the laptops for use in schools. But Rwanda tops the list of the number of computers that have been ordered. Ethiopia has been shipped 5,000 laptops, and South Africa and Ghana have each received at least 100 laptops, according to Lustig.

Rwanda is also to receive about 60 people from the OLPC Corps, a group of students from different U.S. universities who have volunteered to teach children how to use the laptops in schools. A team of volunteers is also expected to be dispatched to other African countries with OLPC laptops to spearhead and support OLPC activities.

The Rwandan government is trying to convince parents to buy the laptops for their children, claiming they are vital implements in education.

The Rwandan government started the distribution of the laptops in September in a bid to transition the country’s education system from blackboard and chalk to digital.

Rwanda aims to equip children with computer skills in order to promote critical thinking and innovation. The country plans to reach 2.5 million primary- and secondary-school pupils by 2020.

Rwanda and OLPC reached a deal in 2007 when President Paul Kagame met OLPC founder and Chairman Nicholas Negroponte. More than 2,000 teachers have already completed training by the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology in the use of specialized OLPC XO-1 computers. The training has also been conducted by the Rwandan Development Gateway Group (RDGG) in partnership with Washington’s Development Gateway Foundation.

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