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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Experts: Use of Robots in Rwanda’s Schools Can Inspire Innovative Solutions

PLAYERS in the ICT sector have called for joint efforts to scale up the use of robots in schools across the country so as to expose children to technologies so that they can build their own inventions and innovations early in their lives. 

The call was made, on Saturday, April 24, during the awarding of children aged between 4 and 14 years, with medals after coaching in the use of robots to code and communicate through storytelling among other skills.

Benjamin Karenzi, the CEO of Zorabots Africa in Rwanda, which organised the exercise, said the aim was to engage young students from nursery, primary and lower secondary school and help them bring learning of sciencetechnology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects to their hands.

He said that the Holiday Robotics Week initiative will soon be scaled up in many schools across the country.

“Once scaled up, we will have achieved inspiring students to join STEM subjects through making STEM subjects fun to learn. We will be exposing geniuses among them to technologies and then they can make or build their own inventions, innovations, and solutions,” he said.

He said that the robots used in schools could help produce future roboticists, innovators and engineers with solutions that respond to community problems.

“We are focusing on different robotic solutions for healthcare, for industries like manufacturing, mining and firefighting and other sectors. However, we have decided also to go into education because we want to help youngsters see robots as something happening now and also something that they can do on their own,” he said.

He said they are in discussion with government, private sector and development partners to scale up this programme.

Alida Ngwije, the parent whose 7-year old child benefitted from the camp said: “We believe it is a good initiative because children need to start learning and practicing science when they are still young. We are very supportive and we hope that it is going to continue. Specifically speaking for girls in sciences, this is an added value.” 

ICT in education strategy

Esther Kunda, the Director of Innovation and Emerging Technologies at The Ministry of ICT and Innovation said that the government is promoting robots to incorporate and promote science and technology in the classroom.

“In some of the initial ways we have tried to do that is the government ICT in education strategy. That has given us a ground base to understand how we incorporate technology into the classrooms,” she said.

Technology like robots is the future. It means we will have interactivity in most of our appliances, in our daily life like robots helping in preventing Covid-19, industry and others as most of the things are going to be soft-ware driven. Robots are part of emerging technologies,” she noted.

“By introducing the concept of robotics and programming and coding at a very young age, we see that there is a big potential that future generations will be competitive at the global market and help achieve the country’s vision of becoming an ICT hub,” she noted.

She said that there is a need to start creating interest and market for the robots so that parents start thinking of buying them for children to learn.

“The next step is to see innovative entrepreneurs take advantage of that and see how they can manufacture robots locally. We have some that can manufacture prototypes around these materials.

“There are people trying to break into this industry so that ICT equipment is affordable,” she said.

Maxwell Gomera, the Resident Representative of UNDP in Rwanda said that this initiative should also extend to children from less privileged backgrounds across the country.

“We can have competition among schools, get the best schools to develop their ideas. We want to see kids coming up with brilliant ideas.

“We are behind this. When you have good ideas, funds follow. We are optimistic that working together with our partners, we can find the resources that are needed to expand this across the country,” he added.

  • The New Times
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