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OLPCorps in Rwandan schools, Part 2: Kagugu and Nonko

This is part two of a post about school sessions during the 30 OLPCorps teams' two-week training in Kigali, Rwanda with members of the OLPC Center for Laptops & Learning and Rwanda's RITC/OLPC Core Team.

The workshop brought OLPCorps teams to five Rwandan schools with XO laptops; the following is a brief synopsis of the trainings in two of the schools, Kagugu and Nonko:

Kagugu Primary School: This is known as the best public school in Rwanda. The school is located in Kigali and has a total of 3020 laptops and 3242 students (P1 students share laptops), and 47 teachers. The school has Internet access. Students do not currently take their laptops home. Julia Reynolds of the OLPC Learning Team, Epimaque TWAGIRIMANA Leader of the Rwanda Core Team, Core Team technical members Basil IRENE MASEVELIO, John-Marie NYIRINKWAYA, and 30 OLPCorps members conducted the training at Kagugu. Both days were focused on teachers.

So all 47 teachers could participate, they were arranged into 3 different groups, each with 2-hour training sessions. The first day, teachers were introduced to Scratch. It was their first time using Scratch because the laptops were just recently reflashed to a newer software build. After a basic introduction, teachers were asked to take a picture of any object or scenery in the school yard, and import this picture into Scratch and tell a story about the picture. The teachers, with the assistance of OLPCorps members, used sound, images and animation to tell their stories. At the end of the session, teachers shared their work with the larger group to supportive applause.

The second day, teachers sat with OLPCorps members in smaller groups and explored ways they could use the XO in the classroom. Both OLPCorps members and teachers were fantastic. Together, they explored ways to use Turtle Art, Memorize and Scratch for lessons. One teacher, who had not previously used the laptop in his class, decided he wanted to start right away and grabbed some OLPCorps members to assist him in his classroom.

[caption id="attachment_673" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Kagugu teacher Simon's students using XOs for outdoor language learning"]Kagugu teacher Simon's students with XOs[/caption]

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OLPCorps in Rwandan schools, Part 3: EPAK and Kicukiro

This is final part of a 3-part series on the initial learning workshops in Kigali, Rwanda,  focusing on EPAK and Kicukiro schools.

EPAK: EPAK is located in Kigali. The school has a total of 420 XO laptops, 350 were given by the government; another 70 laptops were given by international humanitarian organization, Right to Play. There are 680 students and 15 teachers. So that each student at the school has access, students in the morning  session will share their laptop with students in the afternoon session. Laptops were first dispersed during the OLPCorps training. 15 OLPCorps members and Paul Commons, Reuben Caron, and David Cavallo of OLPC led the distribution and training sessions.

On day one, the team prepped by discussing a variety of issues which were likely to emerge, such as language barriers, how to address concerns of integrating the laptops into the curriculum, etc.  Teams touched upon each issue individually and designed approaches based on this discussion.  For language, a majority of the translation was led by Kaçandre Bourdelais from Laval University.  However, during the individual training sessions, French speakers were assigned to a separate teacher to manage translation. The training provided mostly individual attention on programs that teachers wished to explore in more depth.  Teachers varied in the activities they explored, from Measure and Scratch to Turtle Art.  Later that afternoon, the same teachers were seen explaining what they had learned to their students and how they'll have the same opportunity the following week.

Day two began by reflashing and NAND blasting several hundred laptops before distribution--only to find out halfway though that the image file was corrupt.  As a result, the majority of the morning was spent installing the latest build.  By lunch time, however, all EPAK's classes had laptops.  One particular lesson Corps teams took from this experience was the variety of teaching styles carried out in the classroom.  Some teachers, like P1, preferred more strict, instructional techniques, a few teachers valued individual exploration, and others attempted group work.  Unfortunately, unexpected power issues at the school forced us to stop by late afternoon.

Kicukiro: Kicukiro Primary School is located in Kigali. There are a total of 3242 students, 44 teachers and 780 laptops. These laptops will be distributed after July holidays, so that each child has access, the Headmaster has decided that each classroom will have 20 laptops per classroom. The headmaster Felix says that "kids left their old schools to come here because they heard we would have laptops."

OLPCorps students working with teachers at Kicukiro Primary School (Photo courtesy Michael Stein)
OLPCorps students working with teachers at Kicukiro Primary School (Photo courtesy Michael Stein)

Language was the main hurdle here.  More photos and conclusions after the jump.

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School reports from Kagugu and Rwamagana

Julia recently travelled to Kagugu and Rwamagana to work with the OLPC schools there. In Rwamagana she ran a week-long workshop, working with the students on programs and storytelling.Read the rest of this entry

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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