Talking with the teachers about their own training

XO laptops have been in Rwanda for, on average, a year or so. During this time, the children have achieved and created many amazing things. We held a summer camp where children created their own newspapers, here are some that P5-P6 students created in just one week!

group 5, technology newspaper

group 4, Kagugu Newspaper

(This is an easy way to get your students excited about writing, reading, spelling, etc. and also engaging them in the community.)

Other students asked questions important to them like:

Where does the sun go at night?

Why are some people rich and others are poor?

Is heaven in Egypt? (since heaven is up and Egypt is up too)

The students then carried out their own curiosity investigations to answer these questions.

Other students programmed their own games using Scratch (

But, as we all know, computers are the “children’s machine.” Children are not afraid to test, to create, to make a wrong click, to be creative, so it is easy for them to catch on to the laptop. For adults, it can be much more difficult, particularly when you are teacher, following a strict curriculum, preparing at times 70 students per class for an exam in a foreign language (English).

So this year, we are focusing on the teachers. They are still hesitant to use the laptop in their lessons, because they do not see how, or they feel it will be an additional burden to them.

For this training, we wanted to be completely driven by the teachers. I noticed that teachers were not fully understanding their importance to this project. They are integral. Without them, this will not work. They are in a great position of power, and are at the forefront of revolutionizing Rwanda’s education system. We no longer wanted teacher to show up for training as passive, un-engaged participants, thinking they have no control over their own preparation. So this time we decided to first meet with the teachers at the five schools we will be working with:

  1. Nonko
  2. ESCAF
  3. Kagugu
  4. La Colombiere
  5. Rwamagana (during school holidays)

and ask them how they want their training to look. This is a very eye-opening experience. If teachers see that you are there for them, to support them, will hold no judgement, they are eager to communicate with you their needs, comments and suggestions.

We first met with the teachers of Nonko. Nonko is a small primary school near Kanombe Airport with approx. 800 students, the school has had the laptops since 2008. The teachers asked for more support integrating the laptop into their curriculum. They were also hesitant because they had heard that it was necessary to have a server, additional content and Internet access to be able to use the laptops. While these additional peripherals will arrive  sometime this year, we need to show the teachers that you can get started without these things. Because teachers cannot easily stay after school or travel during the weekends, it was decided that the training would be held on two different shifts, morning and afternoon, so half of the teachers could monitor the other’s students while they were in training. The Headmistress and teachers were extremely grateful to us for visiting them and making a plan with them, they said they were now very happy.

ESCAF is a private school; so they have allotted time for “computer” during the week. Because of this, when we met with the Headmaster and teachers, they asked us to work with both teachers and students. The teachers there had only received one training at a local university, so they were very nervous about the students knowing more than they do on the laptop. So it was decided that we would work with students twice a week, in which the teachers could observe our lessons and teaching styles and once a week we go over these same philosophies and provides basic introduction for the teachers.

Kagugu is a very large public school with approx. 4000 students and 51 teachers. We have held many activities at this school for children (some for teachers) and so the teachers here are also nervous that they children know more about the laptops then they do. And like Nonko, they do not know how to integrate the laptop into their lesson plans. At first it was hard to get the teachers to provide a time for the training. But we reminded them that this is not always going to be an easy process, but we have to work together, and take a committment and responsibility to do our best to make this initiative to succeed, the teachers then suggested a two-hour time slot, but because there are new teachers, they requested that they be divided into three different groups: beginners, medium-level, advanced.

La Colombiere is another private school in Kigali. And  much like all other teachers, the concern was using the laptop in lessons. The Headmistress asked that we focus on younger grades, under the theme of science. Since not all of the children have laptops (at private schools, parents are asked to purchase the laptop) those with the laptops would be sent to one class twice a week, with a teacher to support our (OLPC) trainers.

The last school we visited was Rwamagana. Rwamagana is an hour outside of Kigali in the Eastern province. The first pilot in Rwanda was started at this school. This was a great teacher’s meeting for me. The school had recently hired many new young teachers and they were very excited to use the laptop in their classrooms. They asked for an “intensive” training with “no breaks.” They asked that we provide them with examples of lesson ideas, and over the school holidays in April, go over the lessons with them, and once the students return from vacation, they want to then teach these lessons in their classrooms.

One really important idea that came out of this meeting was when the teachers asked when they will get their own “normal” laptops. This made it clear that we needed time just to show the teachers what the XO laptops can do for them personally. Rwamagana is lucky enough to have an Internet connection; so I asked the teachers who has email… most said they didn’t, but they would like to have an account. Therefore, we decided to start the training with ways that the laptop can enhance their own lives so they give importance to it.

Another important theme that was brought up at ALL of the schools was maintenance. Because the core team here (the local team in charge of school support/maintenance, here please find some of the duties and recommendations for a core team: Core Team Basic Tasks) is still small, many of the schools are left with broken laptops that they have no idea how to fix. The teachers requested that they all, or at least some, have maintenance training so they can fix some of their own laptops. This is a great idea, being that almost all the laptops can be fixed with either a USB key or a screwdriver. If the person reading this is in charge of deployment in a country I suggest that you make sure an in-school teacher maintenance program is developed at the schools where the laptops are being deployed.

Do to this, you might want to provide:



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