Advancing education in Rwanda: two views from Kagugu

East African freelancer Nick Wadhams and Czech journalist Tomas Lindner (from Respekt) both visited Kagugu Primary School in Kigali this month, while in the country covering the recent presidential elections.

Wadhams reported briefly on his visit to Kagugu for a short radio segment for NPR’s All Things Considered.  He gets soundbites from a student and the project coordinator,  and notes some of the worries teachers and parents have.  He finds a classroom dark and dirty, and asks somewhat glibly “do poor kids really need laptops?”

Meanwhile Lindner wrote a subtle review of Rwanda’s development as a technological nation, for the German magazine Tagesspiegel.  He visits Kagugu with this in mind, considering the place of technology in schools as part of Kagame’s national Vision 2020 plan.  He interviews school director Edward Nizeymana, and visits a biology class to see how they learn together with XOs.  They discuss the rapid growth of school attendance, changing motivations and long-term goals of the students, and the challenges teachers face adjusting to new technology and to English as a new language of instruction.  Nizeymana says, responding to questions about whether Rwanda should invest in this way in primary education:

“The critics say that the government should first invest in drinking water or electricity.  But that will not do.  The world is not waiting… we have to run, do many things simultaneously. We can not let modern technologies wait until everyone has clean water at home. “

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Sharing the flame of inspiration

This past weekend, we had a country meeting in Cambridge – the sort of gathering of national project leads, and honest sharing of lessons and challenges, that I love best about OLPC.  It ranged from the familiar to the unexpected.  It is fascinating to observe the  with Gaza and Afghanistan providing useful perspectives on what is easy and what is hard in very dense and very sparse regions, under economic and military pressure.

It left me with a lot to think about regarding how we scale passion, awareness, and the practicalities of deployment — we saw a few different successful models for scaling to hundreds of thousands of children and teachers, and discussed social and political pitfalls to avoid.

At the same time, Juliano wrote up a very personal reflection on the recent teacher training sessions he has helped organize in Rwanda.  He comments that last week’s work felt more effective than any he had done so far, but that it made him think about the challenges of scaling training to an entire country.

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