Zambian School PC Program Kicks Off

Konkola Copper Mine (KCM) has kicked off its computer distribution program in Zambia, aimed at equipping schools with computers and peripherals to promote IT training for students.

The move is in line with the New Partnership for African's Development (Nepad) plan of equipping schools in Africa with computers to promote e-learning in the region.

KCM resident director Deb Bandyopadhyay said Wednesday that computer skills are vital in the knowledge-based global economy, hence the need to equip schools. The mining company, based in the north of the country, has already set up computer labs in 19 schools, which will be the recipients of the initial 300 computers and 19 printers.

Last month, Nepad unveiled a business plan on how schools in Africa will be equipped with computers and then connected to the Internet, to access educational material that will be delivered to schools on a continual basis.

The business plan calls for several measures, including implementing common technology standards in all schools, and buying of solar panels and generators for schools not connected to the national grid.

In addition to the computers and printers, KCM has employed two IT specialists to help maintain the computers for five years.

Recently, KCM singed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the ministry of education aimed at improving the country's education system through the provision of computers, financial and educational resources.

"KCM recognizes education as the cornerstone of development, which could accelerate the government's efforts in meeting certain developmental requirements," Bandyopadhyay said.

The computer distribution program, Bandyopadhyay said, was an act of corporate social responsibility and KCM will never profit from the program by making schools pay for the computers and services. The company has also been training teachers to help build required competence for raising computer literacy.

Last month, African ministers of information and communication technologies (ICT) met in South Africa to approve a plan for rolling out its e-school plan in Africa by the end of the quarter.

KCM is not participating in the Nepad e-school plan, but through its computer distribution program, the Zambian government is getting ready for the roll out of the e-school project.

The aim of the e-learning project is to harness ICT to improve teaching and learning in African schools. It also aims to create a critical mass of African youths with ICT skills to narrow the digital divide between Africa, America and Europe.

Copperbelt Permanent secretary Jennifer Musonda said KCM's computer project would act as a catalyst to force the Zambian government to move faster in equipping all schools with computers.

Musonda said the ICT situation in Zambia was relatively underdeveloped and that the government would soon equip all government run schools with computers.

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