ONLINE EDUCATION SCALING ICT SKILLS AMONG RWANDAN YOUTH DURING CORONA VIRUS LOCK DOWN
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Frank Mudahunga, is an 18 year old student in Nyawerasector kayonza district in eastern province.
As a senior six candidate, who was preparing to sit for his finals this year, he thought his performance would dip after the closure of schools by government as a measure to curb the spread of corona virus.
However, Mudahunga’s dream of becoming an engineer remains the target thanks to the government efforts to facilitate learning online while the country remains under lockdown.
Amid the corona virus lock down, Rwandan government closed all schools in order to curb the spread of the virus. Although it seemed a threat to education and studies of the students, it is now turning out to be a blessing in disguise.
“I had not used internet before for any study purposes not even much for browsing through websites but the more I have used it during this lockdown, the more I find it interesting,” explained the excited Mudahunga.
Rwanda now has introduced a campaign to facilitate students to continue their education online through internet. After laying all the necessary internet infrastructure across the country, the Rwandan population is now getting digitized.
“we work in groups of five using a laptop for one of our neighbors most of us, our IT skills are not so adequate but through groups like ours, we learn from each other and we are coping well and it exciting as well as improving ourbasic computer skills,” added Mudahunga.
Mainly with university students and other tertiary institutions having been provided with laptops, and other cheap gadgets like mara smart phones being provided to rural masses through donations by Rwandans after the campaign was initiated by the president of the republic, the digital literacy is now improving especially among the rural youth thus facilitating their education during the lock down.
Digital literacy in Rwanda is less than 10 percent and only 14 percent of Rwandans own and use smart phones these donations of smart phones will go a long way in creating a change for 12 million Rwandans especially the youth.
However, the students in rural areas are calling upon the government to do more especially in making the internet more affordable which is still a big hindrance.
Rwanda is among the countries with the highest internet costs in the east africa region and with mara smart phones costing US$126, it is still considered very high for an average Rwandan.
“This is a good initiative by government to facilitate our education under this lock down but we can’t afford internet costs all the time. If they could be lowered further, it would be better for us” said Cyrill Rutayisire, a university student at University of Rwanda.
As one of the Government’s key partners in education, UNICEF pledges that it will continue to support remote learning materials for Rwanda’s students until schools reopen.
“Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot afford to give up on a child’s education. We are happy to work with the Government of Rwanda, which has shown such pro-active concern with the continuity of education,” says Julianna Lindsey, UNICEF Representative in Rwanda.
Rwanda was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to impose a countrywide lock down to curb the spread of the corona virus after it registered the highest number of cases in the East African region in the first weeks of the outbreak.
After the lock down and closure of schools, over 3 million students now out of school and expected to learn at home.
For primary schools, there are short-term measures in place to ensure learning opportunities for students,UNICEF is now supporting radio material that is aligned with the Rwandan curriculum.
In collaboration with various development partners and the Rwanda Education Board, UNICEF continues to support the production and airing of new radio material.
UNICEF is particularly concerned that early learning opportunities are sustained, therefore developing radio content for pre-primary children.
By NGARAMBE K. Alex