KAMPALA – The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) through the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF) has lectured headteachers on the new Holistic eLearning Project (HeLP) programme where it is video-conferencing lessons in both Urban and rural schools.
Mr. Kalema Golooba one of the five pedagogy and ICT enthusiasts who are on HeLP implementation the team said the project is being piloted in four schools including Gayaza High school, St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Nabisunsa Girls’ School and Busoga College Mwiri.
He said these were selected because of the earlier eLearning projects they had been involved in and their willingness to experiment on the model of learning and the ICT infrastructure they have.
“UCC [through RCDF] wants to connect those big secondary schools like Kisubi, Kings College Buddo, Nabisunsa with rural schools to start teleconferencing this year so that they can share knowledge. We want a situation where a good Mathematics teacher at St. Mary’s College, Kisubi is giving a lesson, and some 100 rural schools in Karamoja should be able to follow this lesson in Kisubi. That is the pilot we are doing,” Mr. Bugaba said during school headteachers’ workshop on internet connectivity to schools held at Kololo secondary school Kampala.
The HeLP is implemented by a team of four educators of immense experience in pedagogy and use of ICT4E supported by an expert in monitoring and evaluation. At each school, the project recruits a focal person who runs the day to day activities.
Mr. Kalema said the project aims at fostering collaboration between rural schools and urban schools on joint learning activities through its web-based eLearning platform and through video conferring.
“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 its web-based eLearning Platform,” he said.
According to Simon Bugaba, the head regional office who represented the director RCDF, the aim of the programme is to ensure that students in rural areas can learn modern teaching aspects from teachers in urban areas.
He added that the government has already connected 90 percent of secondary schools with computer laboratories and the Internet, and is now moving to ensure that all teachers are technology savvy and can easily use it to improve the quality of teaching.
“We are now collaborating with the Ministry of Education to see what we can do to make sure that when we give you a lab, it serves the purpose for which it was given. Sustainability is a big challenge,” Mr. Bugaba said.
He noted that HeLP will be rolled out to other schools after the pilot phase starting with those schools that will have utilised the internet connectivity given to them and built a budget line for the sustainability of the connection.
RCDF also conducted the fourth regional workshop of a second phase programme where it is providing reliable internet services to 103 secondary schools to improve the quality of education in government schools.
Mr. Bugaba said UCC aims to ensure that students in government schools can learn modern teaching aspects as it results in quick access to information, e-learning, and ICT integration in teaching and research.
In a 3-year-exit strategy, RCDF intends to meet the full cost for installation at all schools; 100%, 70% and 50% cost of the bandwidth capacity in the first, second and third years respectively with the balances covered by the schools.
He told headteachers that RCDF has redesigned the project in that the fund would pay 100% bandwidth in the first year, reducing to 70% in the second year, and 50 % in the third year then “we leave the schools to pay for the rest.
“We hope it will work,” he said. He said the government has so spent about UGX75m on constructing the laboratories in each of the schools.
“What can we do? Structural unemployment is a fact of life. People have to train and retrain. We cannot miss ICT because we fear that people who do not have skills could lose their jobs. This is a reality. ICT has come to disrupt the way we do work. The teachers must make sure they fit into the eco-system,” he explained.
Ms. Mary Teteguse, from the ministry of education secondary deprtment, cautioned head teachers to ensure the sustainability of the project.
To ensure the sustainability of the project that has cost UCC billions of money, she said that schools without ICT budget will face disciplinary actions and that their budget will not be approved by the ministry.
She also advised the headteachers to continue being good ambassadors knowing that their work will be rewarded by God.
“Teachers are satisfied that they make a difference and are a masterpiece for a better tomorrow. This is a great motivation, which is also a calling from God. We are on this journey to transform our homeland. But it will take a lot of sacrifice on our part,” she said.
To upshot the process, UCC contracted RENU to provide faster and more reliable internet connections to schools and digital content sharing as the discussion has shifted to collaborative learning and more meaningful integration of ICT.
The purpose of the workshop was to guide heads of ICT departments in respective schools that are beneficiaries to understand where their role is for the success of the project.
Ms. Patience Agaba, a Network Engineer with RENU briefed headteachers on the project.
“It is my prayer that headteachers embrace all these facilities at their disposal,” she said.
Ms. Irene Nansambu, a computer teacher from Cardinal, Nsubuga SS said her school has started using computers in education especially, powerpoint.
“We use it to present in class. Sometimes we use excel during maths lessons,” she said.