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Inside UCC hi-tech project to raise rural education standards

Headteachers being briefed on the UCC hi-tech project to raise rural schools education standards. (PHOTO/Javira Ssebwami)

KAMPALA – A student sitting in a classroom at Bukabooli Secondary School in Mayuge district should be able to follow a mathematics lesson going on in another classroom at St Mary’s College Kisubi, more than one hundred miles away, once UCC’s new eLearning project is set in motion.

Conceived by the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF), the Holistic eLearning Project (HeLP) is a game-changing ICT tool that seeks to enhance collaboration and knowledge sharing among schools.

Through HeLP, schools are supported by the Uganda Communications Commission to build the necessary capacity to provide better quality teaching and learning, thereby contributing to the attaining of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which is about ensuring “inclusive and equitable quality education”, and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

The project is being piloted in four schools; Gayaza High School, St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Nabisunsa Girls’ School and Busoga College Mwiri.

The quartet was selected on the basis of earlier eLearning projects they have been involved in, readiness and willingness to experiment with the new model of learning, and their relatively well-established ICT infrastructure.

Among other outcomes, the project expects to narrow the urban-rural disparity in terms of access to quality teaching and learning.

“We want a situation whereby a good Mathematics teacher at St. Mary’s College Kisubi is giving a lesson and [students in] some 100 rural schools in Karamoja are able to follow this lesson. That is the pilot we are doing,” said Mr Simon Bugaba, the UCC head of regional offices, during a workshop for headteachers at Kololo SS in Kampala on 08 August 2019.

Ms. Patience Agaba from RENU lectured headteachers on the future of education as usage of ICTs takes centre stage. (PHOTO/Javira Ssebwami)

The project is implemented by a team of four people with immense experience in pedagogy and the use of ICTs in education, supported by an expert in monitoring and evaluation. Every participating school recruits a focal person who runs the project’s day to day activities.

Mr. Kalema Golooba, a member of the project’s implementation team, says HeLP aims to foster collaboration between rural and urban schools in joint learning activities through its web-based eLearning platform and video-conferencing.

“We are building teachers’ capacity to identify and develop high-quality digital multimedia content and learning objects, which would be accessible both offline and through the web-based eLearning platform,” he explained.

The three-year project is an attempt to tackle the many challenges associated with education in rural areas where remoteness tends to hamper the quality of education services.

According to Simon Bugaba, the UCC Head Regional Offices, HeLP will ensure that students in rural areas can learn modern teaching aspects from teachers in urban areas.

With 90 per cent of all government-run secondary schools in Uganda supported with computer laboratories and Internet connection, UCC is now moving to ensure that teachers are technologically savvy enough to improve the quality of teaching,” Bugaba said.

He further noted that HeLP will be rolled out to other schools after the pilot phase, giving preference to those that will have utilised the Internet connectivity given to them, as well as those with a budget line for the sustainability of the connection.

Simon Bugaba, the UCC Head Regional Offices, who represented RCDF director Hon Nyombi Thembo admitted that the sustainability of such projects remains a challenge, revealing that UCC is collaborating with the Ministry of Education and Sports to see to it that donated computer labs serve their purpose. (PHOTO/Javira Ssebwami)

“The project will act as an outreach programme for the highly resourced schools unto the underprivileged schools in hard to reach areas,” states the project brief in part.

However, Mr. Bugaba admitted that the sustainability of such projects remains a challenge, revealing that UCC is collaborating with the Ministry of Education and Sports to see to it that donated computer labs serve their purpose.

Reacting to Mr Bugaba’s concern, Ms. Mary Teteguse, an official of the Ministry of Education and Sports, called on the headteachers to ensure the sustainability of the project.

She added that secondary schools without ICT budgets would face disciplinary action and their budgets would not be approved by the ministry.

The event at Kololo SS also marked the end of the school Internet connectivity sensitization workshops that have taken place in all the four regions of Uganda over the last one month.

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