When Dr Obote College Boroboro were declared champions of the robotics challenge last year, some of its students attributed their prowess to plenty of practice with computers. And as SHARON MUWANGUZI has found, not many schools are giving their students that kind of time to practice.
For Emmanuel Wacha, a student at Dr Obote College Boroboro, studying with computers comes with unique advantages.
“We are able to appreciate better how they work and how they can be used to improve life in future,” he said. “We are not champions by chance.”
Wacha’s comment came as Boroboro beat more established schools like Maryhill High School, Gayaza High School and former champions St Mary’s College Kisubi to win the national robotics challenge.
Other Boroboro students were overheard discussing computers and some had smartphones on which they shared WhatsApp messages and images. The move indicates that these students, from a school based in Lira, are very conversant with computers. But not too many schools are that keen to allow students to use computers as frequently.
Indeed, Education Minister Janet Museveni recently complained about schools that had received computers from the government for the teaching of ICT, but had opted to keep them stored, rather than permit their students to learn from the equipment.
“You wonder what the schools are protecting the equipment for instead of enabling their students to excel,” she said, during the release of A-level results last month.
But not all schools are sold onto the need to allow students free access to computers. St Florence SS Namungoona in Lubya is one such institution.
“Students access the computers once in a term; we go to a nearby café for the ICT classes, because the school doesn’t have enough computers and internet for students,” David Lutakome, head of department of ICT at the school, said. “We normally teach the internet as the last topic.”
Lutakome added that the school is restrictive to prevent students accessing downloading pornographic materials.
“As a school, we do not [allow the] use the school computer to avoid downloading of materials that could infect the computers with viruses and also hacking of the school ICT system,” Lutakome added.
In 2012, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), was introduced in all secondary schools, to be offered by A-level students as an alternative to subsidiary Mathematics.
Other schools are driven by the need to guard against cyber insecurity, online pornography and other naughty occupations that computer users get up to.
Bernard Ngobi, the director of Studies at Kasubi Parents SS, said school restricts computer access to students to once a term. However, those already in A-level access the computer laboratory once a week, during the third term, as they prepare for their final exams.
At Namungoona Progressive, the director of studies, Denis Byaruhanga, explains that students have access to the computer only twice a week, usually on the days when they have lessons. A few students may also access the computers on the weekends.
At the nearby Namungoona High School, the situation is similar. According to the school’s director of studies, Alex Semakalu, computer access is also very restricted.
“We introduced ICT studies in A-level only [since] it is very easy to monitor what the students are searching on the internet and the computers,” he said. At this school, students are taught in groups of two to one machine. ”We also have two teachers per lesson, making it hard or impossible for the students to misuse the internet.”
Semakalu adds that they are very restrictive of students in the boarding section, but have no control over day students, who can access the internet over their smart phones since this is also usually off the school premises. However, they are anxious that students will not be exposed to hackers and traffickers, during their sojourn on the internet. This is a matter that interests Moses Binoga, police chief in charge of Human Trafficking.
“Students are particularly vulnerable and we are working to ensure schools pay attention to this fact,” he said.
Binoga was speaking on the sidelines of a half-day workshop by the Uganda Communications Commission, which sought to ensure more security for computer users.
“I usually advise students not to just accept online friendships with anyone, or not to take them seriously,” Binoga adds, on the perils of online use. “Some of these friendships can develop into something serious.”