SCHOOL-BASED TELECENTRE PROJECT
SchoolNet Uganda is currently implementing a School-Based Telecentre (SBT) Project in 5 secondary school located in 5 underserved districts of Bugiri, Bushenyi, Kiboga, Ntungamo and Kumi. School-based Telecentres (SBT) are ICT resource centres which are based at schools but are open to the community especially during the holidays. The schools are Bukooli College (Bugiri), Bweranyangi Girls School (Bushenyi), Bukomero SS (Kiboga), Muntuyera High School (Ntungamo) and Ngora High School (Kumi).
The 5-year project which started in 2004 is a partnership arrangement between SchoolNet Uganda, the implementing agent and Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) – Rural Communication Development Fund (RCDF), the participating schools and the Ministry of Education and Sports.
The SBT project was initiated by SchoolNet Uganda as part of its corporate social responsibility to assist rural underserved schools benefit from the use of the Internet and other ICT to enhance the teaching and learning process.
The School-Based Telecentre (SBT) project had the following objectives:
- To bridge the digital divide between the rural and urban schools.
- To build teachers’ technical capacity, pedagogical capacity and know-how for integrating ICT in the curriculum.
- To monitor and evaluate the impact of the use of ICT in Education.
- Explore creative ways of ensuring sustainability of educational institutions’ ICT facilities and activities.
- Develop local applications and ICT enhanced Educational Content.
- To facilitate networking amongst educational institutions for information sharing and dissemination.
- To act as training centres for the Ministry of education and Sports.
Project Partners and their Roles.
- Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) – RCDF (Rural Communication Development Fund) (US$40,000 –5 VSAT equipment & 10 new computers, technical auditing.
- Ministry of Education and Sports – School selection, policy support and training, project monitoring and evaluation.
- SchoolNet Uganda – Project management & coordination, 50 refurbished computers, technical, pedagogical & tele-centre management training and support and mainstreaming the telecentres in SchoolNet activities.
- School – dedicate a room, burglar proofing, power upgrade, LAN materials, security, recurrent electricity and Internet bills, avail teachers for training, act as a training centre for Ministry of Education and Sports, form a tele-centre Management Committee, open the centre to the community & be in the driver’s seat.
- Faith Action Organization Development – stakeholder mobilization & School Based Telecentre management at Ngora High School.
School-Based Telecentre Project Achievements.
The following has so far been achieved:
- Burglar proofed computer rooms, power upgrade and LAN materials has been provided by the schools.
- LAN installation and commissioning has been done by SchoolNet Uganda at all the 5 schools.
- VSAT Internet connectivity installed and commissioned at all the 5 schools. The VSAT equipment was bought with the subsidy from Uganda Communication Commission (UCC).
- 60 computers (50 refurbished and 10 new) have been provided to the schools. Each school received 12 computers. Ten of which were supplied by SchoolNet Uganda and 2 bought using the subsidy from Uganda Communication Commission (UCC).
- Basic ICT Skills Training has been provided to the teachers by SchoolNet Uganda.
- The Headteachers of the 5 schools have attended ICT in Education sensitization workshop conducted by SchoolNet Uganda.
•On-going pedagogical and technical training and support is provided to the 5 schools by SchoolNet Uganda.
- Two of the centres: Bweranyangi Girls and Ngora High school have been used on a number of occasions by the Ministry of Education and Sports and by SchoolNet Uganda as training centres for other teachers.
- The 5 schools have increased on the number of computers and are meeting the recurrent costs of Internet connectivity, electricity and equipment maintenance.
- The 5 schools are also participating in two other SchoolNet Uganda; The World Starts With Me and The Inspiring Science Education for Girls using ICT project.
- Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) is to provide an “alternative power supply solution” subsidy to each of the 5 centres.
- The schools are cascading the training provided by SchoolNet Uganda.
- The students are being in computer studies using the curriculum developed by National Curriculum Development centre.
- Some of the centres are participating in the Cyber School Technology Solution Project.
- The Uganda Digital Education Bank (www.uderb.org ) which is online repository of digital educational resources relevant to Uganda’s curriculum has been setup by SchoolNet Uganda to facilitate networking and sharing of educational resources with other schools.
- Two technical audits have been done by Uganda Communication Commission (UCC).
The implementation of the SBT project has faced a number of challenges, all of which have been a learning experience to SchoolNet Uganda and the other implementing partners.
- The number of computers at each of the schools is far small compared to the number of students and teachers. There is need to increase on the number of computers.
- A lot more sensitization and training that earlier anticipated is needed for teachers to change their attitude and to enhance their skills and competencies to use ICT in their respective subjects.
- The current power crisis has greatly affected the performance of the centres. Some of the schools have no power generators and even those generators, can not afford the cost of fuel for running the computer labs. The power crisis is sometimes worsened by the theft of electric power cables or cutting down of the electric poles in the community. Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) is to provide an “alternative power supply solution” subsidy to each of the 5 centres.
- Internet bills are high. The SBTs are billed even for times when there is no power. This is because the Internet billing at the centres is based on bandwidth and not traffic. The schools have been advised to notify the ISPs to switch off the Internet when long periods of no power are expected.
- Some of the SBT staff are not on the government payroll and it’s a challenge to get them paid.
- Three of the centres have had the head teachers who participated in the setting up of the SBTs and who were well versed with the objectives of setting up the centres transferred to other schools. The new school administration needs to be brought to speed with the objectives of setting up the centres, the roles and obligations of the centres.
- Due to the big number of students compared to the computers, the schools have restricted the community use of the centres to only when the students break off for holidays.
As a learning organization, SchoolNet Uganda has learned a lot from implementing this project especially as regards to the challenges of implementing ICT in rural schools in underserved areas. One important lesson SchoolNet Uganda has learned is that bridging the digital divided between the rural and the urban schools requires combined effort and commitment for a number of partners with the roles and responsibilities laid out from the word go.