Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are a must, are becoming more and more integrated in society, and opening new vistas for people on a daily basis. Applying ICTs to empower education, and learning about ICTs in schools, are considered to be a necessity to overcome the challenges facing the education sector. To support the strengthening of education in Tanzania, the ‘eSchools programme’ is under formulation, a programme aimed at equipping a number of Tanzanian secondary schools with ICT facilities to enable teachers to use and teach ICTs for a better and more efficient education system.
Tanzania covers an area of more than 900,000 square kilometres and has a population of about 45 million. Most of the people, 70-80%, live in rural areas; have almost no income and very little education. Official language is Swahili, but teaching language in Secondary Schools is English. There are about 3 million subscribers of mobile telephony, about 150,000 fixed line subscribers and only 6% of the population has access to electricity. Access to Internet in rural areas is very scarce and of low capacity.
The Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT), is responsible for Primary and Secondary Education. Another ministry manages Higher Education. Primary Education has been expanded dramatically during the last 5 years and can now offer education to all younger children. The capacity of Secondary Education is still very low, even compared to many other African countries, but the Ministry aims at a 50% intake of the school leavers from Primary Education within 5 years. There are about 13,000 primary schools and 2,000 secondary schools in the country.
The eSchool programme has, for practical and tactical reasons, so far focused its efforts on ICT in Secondary Education. The very first initiative by the Ministry, in the area, was to send three of its staff members to an eSchool workshop in Botswana 2003. This seed grow to a seedling when the Ministry organised a workshop on ICT in Secondary Education in January 2005. The workshop involved 64 stakeholders and experts and resulted in a number of programme guidelines and, most importantly, a stakeholder forum of about 35 persons from various professional areas and employments. In subsequent meetings, work in task forces and a couple of more workshops, the forum developed further the ideas from the initial workshop, and presented finally a programme proposal in May 2006.
The key concepts Well-defined usefulness
Students and teachers should not only learn ICT as such, but also use ICT as an integrated tool in the learning and teaching process with a resulting increase of the academic quality.
A holistic programme view
To be efficient, the programme needs to be nation wide and include all crucial factors for success, including teachers trained in ICT, a curriculum with ICT as a subject and as an educational tool in all appropriate subjects, and sufficient funds to at least maintain the initial use-level of the computer equipment and bandwidth capacity for Internet connections.
Efficient programme organization
The Ministry should create the framework for the programme, including policy guidelines, strategies for increased educational quality and efficiency with the help of ICT, and master plans for staff training, the implementation of ICT in schools and for initial and recurrent support to schools where ICT is implemented. The more physical implementation of ICT in schools should be managed by a separate, special and temporary organisation. The implementations could be done by any able organisation, such as NGOs, private sector or schools themselves.
A working ownership
The Ministry is the overall programme owner with responsibilities as stated above under organisation. Each school will be owner the ICT development at the school, including being responsible for the equipment installed in the school and the efficient use of the ICT investment.
Capacity building of all involved actors
Staff members at the Ministry need to gain capacity to be able to design, create and manage an efficient programme. Staff at the organisation (project) for implementation of ICT in schools need to be trained in quality aspects, performance evaluation and procurement. The implementing organisations and their staff need to be trained in project management, quality assurance, planning and installations of computers, local networks and software. And finally, each school manager (headmaster or head mistress) should be trained in the management of a computer installation, including financial matters, maintenance and repair, risks and staff requirements. The staff at a school where ICT is implemented need to have capacity for daily running of the computer installations, simple maintenance, problem solving and repair; safety and security procedures, teaching ICT as a subject and using ICT as a tool in teaching. The students need to be able to use ICT in general and especially as a tool in learning.
To maximise the benefits of ICT, the schools need to be connected to Internet. This is a major financial challenge in Tanzania, as bandwidth there is expensive. In most cases the schools will be connected via satellite (VSAT). Economy of scale and buying bandwidth in bulk for all schools and the management of bandwidth assignments to each school by the Ministry itself, lower the cost considerably. Thin client computers lower the equipment, maintenance and systems management cost per computer. Wireless networks are not yet fit for many (20+) computers in a classroom environment, so it needs to be wired networks. When there is no power grid within access of a school, solar panels will be the solution. Then 12-volts computers will be more energy efficient.
Being attractive for funding/financing
The Government of Tanzania can only provide a minor part of the funding required for the programme. Thus, it is important raise funds from other sources. The main funding source, so far, has been Sida, the Swedish international development agency.
The Programme model ICT in Teacher Colleges
In the first phase of the programme, all 34 governmental teacher colleges will each get about 30 thin client computers and a server, all tutors are now trained in ICT and a few staff members at each college will be trained in maintenance and other technical matters. From next year (2007) all teacher colleges will have the capacity to train all teacher students.
ICT in Secondary Education
In the next programme phase, ICT will be implemented in Secondary Education. This phase is still at the planning stage, with the Ministry currently refining the programme description. As a first step, ICT will be implemented in a minimum of 200 schools during two years. The schools will be clustered in groups of about five, for efficiency in the implementation. The criteria for selection of schools is that they have at least two ICT trained teachers, have shown strong willingness to participate in the programme and are reasonably prepared to use ICT. Schools with electricity from a power grid, will be prioritised. When an implementation team has left the area, volunteers with experience from long-term use of computers, and preferably teachers, will stay in the cluster area and support the involved school staff of the area. There will be two volunteers per cluster area, and they will stay in the area for at least 6 months.
The organisation responsible for the implementation of ICT in schools, will only finance implementation of ICT in schools, including cost for computers. The Ministry will fund recurrent costs at the schools, including costs for maintenance, repair, Internet connectivity, etc. and also all costs for training, technical support and programme management.
The capacity building at the Ministry, in the selected schools and at the organisations that will manage the implementations in schools, will start in this phase. The start of the phase is expected this year. How long it will take for ICT to be implemented in all the 2000 Secondary Schools will depend primarily on access to funds. The feedback from the quality assurance, will also affect the pace of the implementation. The approach is to rush with caution, and work hard initially to achieve a successful showcase. It will probably take 5-10 years to install ICT in all the secondary schools of the country.
All text in the article reflects the author’s understanding of the programme, and in some cases, the most probable approach or solution to be selected, based on earlier discussions among stakeholders and decision makers. The Tanzanian authorities have not cleared the article.