Rwanda is the fifth country to launch the project after Uganda, Ghana, Lesotho and Kenya, but is the first country to have completed implementation in all the six schools.

"I congratulate all the stakeholders in this pioneering initiative in the education of our children and teachers. There is definitely no doubt about our support for NEPAD e-Schools Project and Rwanda will build on what has been achieved to date to make the project successful', said President Kagame.

  The NEPAD e-Schools Project is led by the NEPAD e-Africa Commission-the NEPAD Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Task Team responsible for developing the NEPAD ICT Programme and implementing related projects. The project focuses on providing end-to-end ICT solutions that will connect schools across Africa to the NEPAD e-Schools Network and the Internet. Solutions also include the provision of content, learning material and the establishment of health points at schools.

Said Dr Henry Chasia, the Executive Deputy Chairperson of the NEPAD e-Africa Commission, "This is the first time that African governments, NEPAD and the private sector are cooperating on an ICT Project of this scale and scope in the NEPAD framework, developed and driven by Africans, and for African people"

"It is through such partnerships that we shall be able to impart modern ICT skills and knowledge to the youth, to enable them face the challenges of the ever changing information society and global economy. This technology will enable the young people, teachers of this school and the wider communities to tap into the global mainstream of information and knowledge, where they will learn, expand their creativity, collaborate with peers across the African continent and across the world, and generally participate in defining the future of their world. In so doing, we shall also be contributing to the attainment of the millennium development goals", he added. The CISCO Systems and Microsoft Consortia, and a number of other private companies are sponsoring the Demonstration Project, consisting of six schools in each of the 16 participating African countries, for a period of 12 months.

The Cisco NEPAD e-Schools Initiative Programme Director, Bill Souders said, "Cisco is proud to be a consortium lead and an active participant in the NEPAD e-Schools Initiative. We are confident that our broad experience and focus in creating next generation teaching and learning solutions can be leveraged effectively to make the NEPAD effort a real success".

The Microsoft Consortium is providing solutions to half of the NEPAD e-Schools demonstration project in Rwanda. Richard Kiplagat of Microsoft noted that "the broader availability of technology in education is a means to opening doors to economic and social prosperity. This access has been identified as a prerequisite for achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. As such, it needs to be a shared public/private effort". The countries participating in this demonstration project are: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda.

In each country, the project aims to transform all African secondary schools into NEPAD e-Schools within five years of implementation start date and all African primary schools within ten years of implementation start date. In total, more than 600 000 schools across the continent will enjoy the benefits of ICT and connectivity to the NEPAD e-Schools Satellite Network upon completion of the project.

Highway Africa News Agency