WHEN African Heads of state adopted New Partnerships for Africaâ€™s Development (NEPAD) in July 2001 summit, African Union, hope was that it could become their strategic framework for Africaâ€™s renewal where they would design a mechanism to address the current challenges facing the African continen
WHEN African Heads of state adopted New Partnerships for Africaâ€™s Development (NEPAD) in July 2001 summit, African Union, hope was that it could become their strategic framework for Africaâ€™s renewal where they would design a mechanism to address the current challenges facing the African continent.
At the time they adopted NEPAD, the African leaders felt that issues such as the escalating poverty levels, underdevelopment and the continued marginalisation of Africa needed a new radical intervention spearheaded by them to develop a new vision that would guarantee Africaâ€™s renewal.
So, NEPAD was born and among its primary objectives was the need to eradicate poverty to cause sustainable growth and development in Africa countries and to enhance their full and beneficial integration into the global economy.
One of the principles of NEPAD was to ensure that all partnerships are linked to the Millennium Development Goals. NEPAD then vowed to prioritise capacity-building, investment in human development with a focus on education, science and technology and skills development through improved infrastructure, especially in Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
This interest in ICT and education led to the development of the NEPAD e-schools initiative aimed at providing an end-to-end education solution that would utilise ICT to connect schools to the NEPAD e-schools network and the Internet. In addition to connectivity, NEPAD would provide education content and learning material.
The initiative would deliver tangible results to over half a million schools across Africa so that within five years all African secondary schools would have converted into NEPAD e-schools. Additionally, all African primary schools would be turned into NEPAD e-schools within 10 years of implementation.
On July18, 2005, President Yoweri Museveni officially launched the Bugulumbya e-school. The President promised that the Ministry of Education would back the project.
The school, with a staff complement of 22, including 18 teachers and providing education to around 270 learners, underwent a radical transformation as a result of the co-operation between the community, the Government, NEPAD and private enterprise led by the HP consortium. The Bugulumbya e-school got computers and accessories, computer desks, a server and Internet. They were also promised that electricity, mobile telephone booster mast, DSTV, TV screen and decoder would be provided. Staff would also be trained in ICT to impart skills to the children.
It is one and a half years after the launch and the story is different. The roads to Bugulumbya are in a pathetic condition with some sections impassable; some computers are non-functional, some accessories are spoilt or lost, the Internet mast merely serves as a bird roost and electricity has not come to the area. Furthermore, the standby generator has no fuel, DSTV cannot be cleared of subscription fees, there are only two computer-literate staff and the local community have no access to the place. The project appears literally dead.
The Government is yet to incorporate the project in its Budget as promised by President Museveni during the launch. The area MP Isaac Isanga Musumba, who was the brain behind the zeroing on Bugulumbya SS, has since been moved from the Planning ministry under which NEPAD issues fall, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
So, the ambitious programme of NEPAD e-schools could have carried with it a stint of over-ambition. It may never roll out to the 600,000 schools it is meant to, across Africa in the targeted period.
What are the African Union, the steering committee of NEPAD and the Government doing about this? What are the demonstration project partners like Eskom and Multichoice doing? Can all the stakeholders wake up so that the community can benefit from this project?
The writer is a councillor for Bulopa sub-county, Kamuli district
E-School project has been neglected