Two semesters but still no laptops for Rwanda varsity students

Sunday March 5 2017

A class in session. Students in academic

A class in session. Students in academic disciplines like engineering and computer sciences, will get high-capacity laptops at an additional cost. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE

Two semesters into their university education, students at Rwanda’s public higher learning institutions are restless following delays in delivery of computers under the laptop purchase programme.

Among the students are those who had earlier complained about the inadequacy of the laptops in meeting their course requirements.

Last year, the University of Rwanda embarked on smart learning, pegged on by the government, through a credit scheme to help students get personal laptops. Under the scheme, the Ministry of Education and that of ICT partnered with a local device manufacture Positivo BGH and the Bank of Kigali.

The Ministry of Education then ordered and distributed more than 23,000 computers to public university students, promising to give thousands of fresh students the same devices annually.

However, first year students now say they are into the second semester but have not received their devices. They are having difficulties preparing coursework and access to learning resources.

“We have issues in learning because even rooms used as computer labs seem abandoned because there are no working computers. We have not received any communication as to whether we can expect the laptops like our colleagues in second year,” complained Emmanuel Simpunga, a first year University of Rwanda student.

Students said learning for the first semester was affected since most subjects are customised for use with computers and other ICT devices.

Initially, the students poked holes in the programme with many decrying low capacity of the devices vis-à-vis the requirements of specific academic disciplines such as ICT and engineering. Most distributed laptops were for mid-level users with only 320GB storage capacity; 2GB RAM and 2.16GHZ processor.

Students who had raised concerns then are also among those waiting for the laptop purchase programme to resume after the government noted their concerns and promised to produce computers matching the specifications required in various academic fields.

“We were told that all the issues we had raised would be resolved when the programme resumes. Students have been affected by this delay since there are few equipped computer labs and you know here we have more than 10,000 students,” said Saleh Kalimunda, the guild president at University of Rwanda’s Huye Campus.

Distribution to resume

Officials at the Rwanda Education Board (REB) said the delay was as a result of the time it took to fix the issues beneficiaries of the devices had raised.

REB director general Janvier Gasana told Rwanda Today distribution would resume soon.

“All the computers have been manufactured and are being programmed with the necessary software and accessories. Distribution could start in the coming weeks,” he said.

Mr Gasana said contrary to what happened last year, students in academic disciplines like engineering and computer sciences, will get high-capacity laptops at an additional cost. He could however not reveal details of the new prices.

Initially, the beneficiaries got the loaned laptop at Rwf300,000 payable in monthly installments running over one and a half years.

This means that a student on government bursary loan incurs a charge of Rwf17,288 every month for the laptop in addition to more than Rwf600,000 as tuition fees per academic year in most public universities, and Rwf25,000 monthly living stipend.

Meanwhile, the delay opened doors to individual dealers in Positivo devices who sell the laptops to students on government bursary loan, deducting Rwf15,000 monthly.

The government plans to ensure each student gets own laptop in a bid to facilitate learning and leverage on ICT in the education sector. The country even went ahead to deploy massive numbers of computers across its primary schools under the one laptop per child.