In an effort to ensure that laptops provided to students in schools are not stolen, the Ministry of Education through the OLPC project has enabled a security feature forcing all laptops that are not in schools to shut down. Today 124 schools and a little over 61,000 children are enjoying the usage of the laptops all around the country. More schools are being targeted as the government has now received an additional 35,000 laptops of which 32,000 are of the latest version the XO Revision 1.5. According to the OLPC project this should correspond to about an additional 70 schools that should be enabled with the program. This effectively place Rwanda as the largest deployment out of South America.
The security feature has been added to the laptops during a re-flash process where all 65,000 laptops had been updated with the latest software and additional educational activities to ensure that the laptops are used in a more effective manner. This was to provide a solution to the lack of use of laptops noticed in some schools, during the pilot phase, where these courses had not been loaded. However according to Nkubito Bakuramutsa, the National OLPC coordinator, the project is rethinking its approach to private schools and those who have purchased laptops will be enabled with digital content from primary 4 to primary 6 on SD cards.
The security feature has triggered a current exercise of visiting schools, checking on the count of laptops, recapturing serial numbers as well as repairing the failing ones, according to Patrick Mugabo, the officer in charge of logistics. Any laptops which will not be enabled by the OLPC engineers, will remain in a failing state until they are brought back to the schools or to the Ministry.
The activation process of laptops, which began last week in the southern province, will continue until the entire country is covered. While today this process is being done manually, servers being installed at schools will take over and automate this process by the end of the year.
With the OLPC project, primary students in Rwanda are being exposed not only to ICTs but also to a new way of learning by doing. Already over 1000 teachers have been trained to the new methodology of teaching using laptops. The Ministry of Education is committed to enhance the quality of education through the integration of technology as one of the strategy of meeting its National Kivu retreat goals.
To get a sense of the change this project is bringing in schools, the community is invited to join the National OLPC Scratch activity, which will happen in September 2011.