Opening Education in Central Africa: Jacques Murinda Introduces OLE Rwanda

Jul 05, 2011

The Open Learning Exchange (OLE) Rwanda is an open education effort designed to improve teacher training in this central African country. Utilizing Open Educational Resources (OER), the program aims to bring basic universal education as well as English language and technology training to teachers throughout the country by 2015. Study.com's Education Insider recently spoke with Jacques Murinda of OLE Rwanda to learn more about this innovative effort.

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By Megan Driscoll

Jacques Murinda OLE Rwanda

Jacques Murinda is deeply involved in education in Africa. After earning his master's degree in library science in Uganda, he worked as a teacher and later became Deputy Chairperson of the Southern Africa Youth Movement in South Africa. In his role in the Southern Africa Youth Movement, Mr. Murinda was involved in youth leadership training, community development and other efforts to educate and enfranchise young people. Mr. Murinda is currently the Executive Director of OLE Rwanda.

Study.com: What is your personal philosophy regarding open education and in what ways do you think that your past experience as a teacher has influenced your interest in this subject?

Jacques Murinda: Having been a teacher and knowing the importance of supportive learning materials (for teachers and students) and the scarcity of educational materials in many African countries, I embraced the open learning philosophy and vision of promoting open educational resources to ensure that every child and educator has access to learning and teaching resources. I believe that the shift from traditional teaching methods in African schools (characterised by chalk and talk) can be addressed through open education, which can provide access to quality resources that contribute to enhanced quality and expedited access to education.

Study.com: When was the Open Learning Exchange Rwanda founded and what issues was it created to address?

JM: Open Learning Exchange (OLE) Rwanda was founded in July 2008. Its mission is to contribute to achieve Quality Universal Basic Education (QUBE) by 2015 using effective low cost technologies, open education resources (OER) and capacity building for teachers. OLE Rwanda also promotes the use of open electronic resources and courseware to boost home grown research, quality education and ICT (information and communication technology) integration in colleges and universities in response to local demand in the region.

Study.com: One of OLE Rwanda's current projects is to adapt a set of digital K-12 courseware from South Africa to include in the proposed Rwanda National Education Library. What types of materials are included in the courseware and what challenges have you faced in adapting them for Rwanda?

JM: We have included K-12 Siyavula, Azim premji and e-learning for kids in the open educational content. We also have OpenCourseWare developed by OLE Rwanda in partnership with Rwandan teachers, students and curriculum developers.

The major challenge in using K-12 open educational content and OpenCourseWare is to first get it aligned to the Rwanda curriculum. Basically, what makes the use of K-12 courseware materials different from those used at universities is that the former must be sensitive to the educational context and level at which they are used. In other words, due to specific local educational environments, social, economic and cultural contexts must be considered when making course selections or adapting open educational content. We therefore must choose which materials need to be customized to Rwanda before use and which ones are ready to use based on curriculum and local context.

We also promote the development of OpenCourseWare by local teachers and curriculum specialists. We have many stories selected from open content (such as Siyavula from the Shuttleworth Foundation) that can be easily understood by children in Rwanda. In most cases however, math and other science contents is the same everywhere, it doesn't need much in terms of adaptation before use.

Study.com: What stage are you at in the adaptation process and when do you anticipate that the materials will become freely available for Rwandan students and teachers?

JM: The adaptation of open content, as well as the collection and development of new OpenCourseWare, is a continuous process. However we still face the challenge of building support infrastructure such as offline and online libraries to make OpenCourseWare and other open content available to different schools. We have started deploying open content in classrooms through technology such as projectors and SD memory cards for children who have XO laptops from the One Laptop Per Child project.

As you may know, Rwanda has deployed around 80,000 XO laptops in schools across the country. OLE Rwanda is supporting teachers and students from the EPAK and GS Kicukiro schools in integrating XOs and open content, mostly by training them to use the content on external devices and other educational technology. We also promote access to and use of open and subsidised e-resources for higher learning institutions through workshops.

One Laptop Per Child XO Laptop OLE Rwanda

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Study.com: What other content is being proposed for the Rwanda National Education Library? Will this library be all-digital? Who will have access to the materials in the library and how do you anticipate them being used?

JM: The education library will have different types of resources in different formats, including open educational resources, curricula and policy documents related to basic education. The library will cater to teachers, students, educators stakeholders and various communities. Content formats will include videos, maps and interactive content to be available on the online and offline library platforms for schools and communities in remote areas and for those with access to the Internet. The OLE Consortium also shares resources and opportunities, which means that our library will be used by educators outside Rwanda.

Study.com: Since English was designated the official language for Rwandan schools, OLE Rwanda has also been working with the Ministry of Education to develop a program for teaching English to Rwanda's K-12 teachers. What types of course materials will be used for this project and how do you plan to distribute them to teachers throughout the country? Will the program be free?

JM: OLE Rwanda is supporting English teaching and learning through low cost technology. We are piloting a project called Teachermate, which uses devices with a content management system for English developed by Innovations for Learning and adapted for students in the lower primary grades.

Our plan for the future is to use similar devices to help teachers learn English. Currently, teaching English is done by the Teacher Service Commission (TSC) of Rwanda and other partners - OLE Rwanda is not involved.

Study.com: How widespread is Internet access in Rwanda? Do you anticipate that lack of access to technology for individuals outside of urban areas will affect your ability to distribute open educational resources? If so, is OLE Rwanda working on any initiatives to help overcome this challenge?

JM: The issue of Internet connectivity can only be solved by the government in partnership with companies operating in ICT sector. Currently many schools even in urban areas are not connected to the Internet. However, the government of Rwanda has a plan to expand access to the Internet through broadband. OLE Rwanda plays an advocacy role for schools that need IT infrastructure to be connected to the Internet.

Study.com: What do you envision as the long-term role for OLE Rwanda? Do you have any other projects currently in the works or any ideas for future programs?

JM: OLE Rwanda is strengthening its position and partnership with the Ministry of Education as an important promoter of open access (resources, OCW and connectivity) and capacity building for teachers and students. The need in the above mentioned areas is great. We intend to diversify our interventions but still focus on the two areas.

Study.com: Finally, I'd like to offer you the opportunity to share anything you'd like about your organization and open education efforts in Rwanda.

JM: Open education in Rwanda and Africa is key in improving access to continuous education. This is relatively a new field; OLE Rwanda is seeking partnerships and assistance from senior organisations with experience in the above mentioned areas.

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