Prof. Jasmin Cowin Ed.D.,
Assistant Professor and Practicum Coordinator
Touro College, Graduate School of Education, New York
Regional Representative of the Mid-Atlantic Region to the National Council of UNA-USA
Global Impact & Sustainability Analyst, Computers for Schools Burundi
Executive Director, Computers for Schools Burundi
The availability of electricity in Burundi is limited, and 85% of rural schools lack access to reliable electrical infrastructure. Currently, 65% of Burundians subsist on US$700 per year (UN 2017), making Burundi’s GDP per capita the lowest in the world. The agricultural industry, which makes up about 80% of the workforce, was weakened during the Burundian Civil War (1993–2005), and today some 1.77 million Burundians in rural areas are considered to be ‘food insecure.’
Electrical infrastructure is necessary to improve educational quality and equality in Burundi, as access to electricity is key to closing the digital divide in developing countries. Currently, students cannot participate in after-school programs, nor can they take online courses or attend school from their homes due to a lack of electricity. Furthermore, at night, most students do not revise their homework, study, or simply a read a book, due to the inconvenience of having to do so by candlelight or using a flashlight. In addition, schools are unable to develop programs and procedures that require access to electricity, whether a computer or chemistry lab or basic online communications and digital payment portals.
Computers for Schools Burundi (CfSB) would like to change this scenario. CfSB is working tirelessly to close the electricity gap by planning solar energy projects for schools in all 18 Burundi provinces. The focus is to help schools install local solar plants to not only light-up their schools but transform them into a community focal point by providing electricity.
Humanity is entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will further propel the world into a digital age where quality education will be defined through Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT) access. It will require us to change the way we think, learn, live, and work. However, as the COVID19 pandemic crisis has unfolded, it has become clear that Africa lags in educational investments. Africa’s future is intertwined with the educational success and savvy of its youth, as global interconnectedness will give rise to online work opportunities. The skills needed to take part in innovation and labor markets require up-to-date ICT Literacy, Information Literacy, and Media Literacy. Yet access to e-learning is mostly nonexistent in Burundi and other African countries.
To this end, CfSB is also working to develop an e-learning platform that will help schools and universities to access and implement e-learning curricula in Burundi. Implementing broad access of educational institutions to IT tools, electricity, and the Internet presents several infrastructural and logistical hurdles. As a first step, CfSB plans to map out investment pathways to embed e-learning in a country where the majority of schools are offline. Thinking outside the box, CfSB is also conceptualizing hybrid uses of available tools such as such as the idea of radio-TV-cell phones, tablets, and laptops to facilitate online education during the time of COVID19 and well into the future.