Rwandan entrepreneur pioneers One Laptop Per Teacher program


“We can’t teach tomorrow’s children the way we taught yesterday.”

 Her father was a mathematician. Her mother was a teacher and member of the Ministry of Education for over 10 years. And now Nadia Uwamahoro, co-founder of GiraICT, is making her mark on local education. Her goal? To put computing devices into the hands of every student in Africa.

But first, she’s starting with teachers.

“We started the One Laptop Per Teacher (OLPT) program to contribute to the quality of education in Africa,” says Nadia. “Teachers are at the heart of every education system and if they fall behind in terms of technology, children will never get the opportunity to explore it and discover their own new opportunities.”

Through the OLPT program, an initiative of GiraICT, Nadia provides female teachers with access to laptop loans. She also gives them training on ICT, helping them to improve their skills and career development.

“Teachers need to be well guided and exposed to new technologies, so that they can become creative and inspire students to do the same. We want to empower teachers so that they can go on to create future leaders, who will develop our nation and discover new solutions to the challenges we are experiencing.”

Nadia’s passion to empower teachers stems from her background. She was born in Burundi as one of six children. However, in 1994, she lost several of her relatives to the Rwandan Genocide.

“There are no words to express what I have seen, my own sorrow, as well as the sorrow of a nation grieving the loss of innocent lives. Emotions run deep, from confusion and sadness to anxiety and anger. In the wake of such trauma, it is our natural response to try to make sense of what we experienced.”

That’s when Nadia drew inspiration from Paul Kagame, current president of Rwanda, who in 1994 served as the Minister of Defence and commander of the rebel forces that ended the Genocide.

“The idea for OLPT was inspired by President Kagame’s One Laptop Per Child program, which has given so much hope to the youth of Rwanda. I chose to focus on teachers, because I believe Africa has never known a greater nation builder than its teachers.”

To date, and with the help of Microsoft 4Afrika and other partners, Nadia has already provided devices to over 1 000 teachers and students in Rwanda, established 40 smart computer labs in schools and developed more than 12 software solutions.

“Microsoft is my biggest supporter. I connected with the 4Afrika Initiative in September 2013 via k-Lab and we have been working closely ever since. We both understand the importance of education in Africa and we are both engaged in finding the best solution to the challenges of African education through the use of ICT.”

Nadia’s five-year plan with OLPT is to extend smart computer labs to at least half of all the schools in Rwanda, Ivory Coast and Ghana, and ensure that every teacher has a device.

But her work doesn’t stop here. She is also part of the Girls in ICT initiative in Rwanda, together with 4Afrika Advisory Council member Akaliza Keza Gara. The initiative is designed to encourage more women to pursue careers in ICT.

“I’m particularly passionate about helping women to thrive in the ICT space. I want to teach them to be creative and to live their dream, as I am living mine. In Rwanda, being a woman in ICT is a privilege. The government has been putting a lot of energy in empowering girls and I hope to continue this legacy.”

You can view GiraICT’s website and programs at www.giraict.rw and www.rdatasystems.com.

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