By Innocent Anguyo
The government through the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has established fully equipped modern computer laboratories in over 1,000 government-owned secondary schools across the country.
Speaking at the Uganda Institute of ICT in Kampala on Friday, Bob Lyazi, the Director of the Rural Communication Development Fund at UCC said about $10m had been invested in the initiative.
Each of these laboratories carries at least 40 custom made computers built to suit conditions in Uganda’s secondary schools.
There are about 1,050 government-owned secondary schools in Uganda. According to Lyazi, the remaining schools will get computer labs in the next one year.
Lyazi further disclosed that of the 1000 computer labs, 600 have already been connected to the internet while the rest will acquire internet within the next one year. Other than being used as a fountain of knowledge by the schools, Lyazi said the computer labs are also been used to impart Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills in residents.
“ We have so far imparted over 50,000 people across the country with ICT related skills such as computer maintenance, internet connectivity, computer repairs, CD burning, website designing, computer science among others,” said Lyazi.
The residents who live close to the secondary schools make use of the computer labs during evening hours and on holidays when not in use by the students. However, the terms of enrolling in the training are subject to negotiation between the schools and the residents.
“We are proud of this project. Uganda is the only country in Africa where there are computer labs in nearly all government schools. Because we have computer labs in these schools, starting next year, computer studies will be compulsory at A level and Uganda will be the first country in Africa to take such a move,” said Lyazi.
“The idea behind this project is that, ICT should become an integral part of the lives of Ugandans. ICT also needs to be integrated into our education system because ICT’s are awash with infinite information. At the end of it all, our country will get easily transformed once these ICT skills become widespread across all villages in Uganda,” added Lyazi.
The project to establish computer labs in secondary schools is a five year program launched in late 2007. Asked why the project was not rolled out to primary schools, Lyazi said it would be unaffordable for government now since there are over 13,000 government owned primary schools in the country.
Lyazi was speaking as guest of honor at the graduation of 250 primary school teachers from Kampala’s Nakawa division who underwent a month long training in an ICT introduction course conducted by the Nakawa based e-Learner Uganda.
Packages taught included IT basics, Word Processing, Power Point Presentation, Internet and Browsing, Spreadsheets and Introduction to hardware. The training fees were sh60, 000.
e-leaner is a software company that has developed software assimilated with curriculum for the Ugandan education system. It has software for pre-primary, primary, secondary and higher institutions of learning.
According to Mike Watkins, the Chief Executive Officer of e-Learner Uganda, the company plans to roll-out the training to other division of Kampala and thereafter the entire country. The South African born company operates in 13 other African countries.
“These soft wares will simplify teaching and learning in Uganda, imagine exposing children to wide array of knowledge as early as four years.
The packages for older people have topics on governance, HIV, peer influence, bullying among others,” said Watkins. Charges for use of the software are subject negotiation between the schools and e-Leaner but when the cost is passed onto the students, it could be as low as sh2, 000 per month.
The training was sponsored by Simbanet, a regional ICT company offering voice, video and data services to enterprises and individuals. Simbanet has introduced (in Uganda) KA band, a newly launched satellite providing broadband service across the globe.
According to Allen Chimhende, the Simbanet general manager, the company is currently running a promotion where clients can acquire the equipment for free and pay for a business package of 15Mbps which can go for as low as sh230, 000.
“This technology is faster, cheaper, easy to install and more reliable because it is directly linked to the satellite, so you can install it on your own and comfortably use it in the remotest village,” said Chimhende. Simbanet is located on Ggaba road, Kansanga, Kampala