Telecom regulator calls on schools to sign up for ambitious IT lab projectThe IT lab project has been initiated to reduce the digital divide between students at public and private institutions.
According to the telecom regulator, government schools must arrange rooms, furniture and 30 Ampere of electricity supply as part of the grant before the project installs IT equipment. Schools that do not sign up within the stipulated time will be removed from the list and new schools will be added.
Under the ambitious IT lab project, the regulator plans to install twenty-four computers, a projector, a multifunction printer, a router, uninterrupted power supply device and solar panels (where necessary) in each of the 930 government high schools in six months across seven provinces.
“The contractor has been mobilised, and it has initiated the procurement process. Once the schools sign up, they will begin installing the equipment,” said Min Prasad Aryal, spokesperson of Nepal Telecommunications Authority. “The regulator is also preparing a plan to mobilise trainers who will impart knowledge to teachers at the schools on using the IT lab for teaching and learning processes.”
Establishment of information, communication and technology learning centres at schools is a crucial component of the agendas of School Sector Development Plan 2016-2023 which envisages IT-enabled teaching and learning.
The IT lab project has been initiated to reduce the digital divide between students at public and private institutions. It is funded through the Rural Telecommunications Development Fund, which was created by pooling 2 percent of the annual income of telecom operator
Around 2000 high schools had applied for the telecom authority’s initiative, and 930 were shortlisted.
According to Aryal, only schools that adhered to the terms of the telecom authority’s Information Technology Laboratory Formation and Management Work Procedure were shortlisted. The project is an initiation under the government’s much-hyped digital Nepal campaign.
As per the government’s 2018 Digital Nepal Framework, teachers, particularly at public schools and universities, have inadequate technical, content, and pedagogical support and poor IT awareness.
To overcome these challenges, the telecom regulator has included provisions in the work procedures which require authorities, local levels and the involved schools to facilitate the training of teachers responsible for imparting knowledge through IT labs.
The work procedures require the selected schools to manage furnished classrooms, choose two teachers for training or hire computer teachers to ensure optimum utilisation of the labs and submit a progress report to the regulator and respective local levels regularly.
And the regulator must carry out teacher training and capacity enhancement programmes before or after the schools are equipped with the It labs and also monitor the usage of the facilities in those schools.
Schools in Province 1 are required to sign up for the project by September 29, schools in Province 2 must correspond by October 3, Province 3 schools by September 24, educational institutions in Gandaki Province must sign up by October 17, Karnali Province schools are required to sign up by October 23 and schools in Sudur Paschim province by October 25.
According to Aryal, the project is envisioned to be executed within the fiscal year 2019-20, and the contractor has been asked to mobilise ample technicians in line with the target.
“The telecom authority expects to finish equipping the selected schools in 71 districts within this fiscal year unless the contract goes into force majeure or if the contractor is not subjected to actions for systematic delays,” said Aryal.
To achieve the target in the stipulated time, it requires the contractor to install and commission the necessary equipment in 39 schools every week. That translates to setting up all the equipment in at least five schools a day, all week round.
However, it remains to be seen how the contractor will execute the project, who also faces logistical challenges as it requires hauling of equipment to remote rural municipalities that have the selected high schools but poor road network.