|Technology Centers in Ugandan Teacher Training Colleges Take Major Step toward Sustainability
Evolution of the Project
The Connectivity for Educator Development Project (Connect-ED), originally established in 1998 by USAID under the LearnLink Program, set up computer centers at Kyambogo University and eight Primary Teacher's Colleges throughout the country. The program has also created multimedia, online teacher training curriculum and a digital resource library based on the Ugandan core curriculum. (A list of previous articles related to this project can be found at the bottom of this page.) The second phase of the project began in October 2003 and included a strong emphasis on ensuring that computer labs that were placed in eight of the countrys 45 primary teachers colleges would become fully sustainable by month 20 of the two year project. Until recently, and despite considerable effort on the part of the project, the possibility of achieving this goal had remained elusive. This changed recently with the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) reinterpreting its policies to begin allowing the colleges to charge end-user fees to lab clients.
Funding Assumptions Vs. Reality
The labs, initially installed during the first phase of Connect-ED, were developed under the assumption that financial sustainability would be achieved through a mixture of Ministry support and charging fees for services. While the Ministry has always supported the labs in terms of providing the buildings, managerial oversight, and basic utilities, until recently the Ministry had not sanctioned the colleges to charge all users fees for services such as printing and Internet usage. If this policy had continued beyond the end of the project, it would have resulted in significant monthly shortfalls in terms of paying Internet connectivity costs, maintaining and replacing equipment, staffing the labs, and supplying the labs with consumable supplies such as paper and toner.
Alternatives: Opening labs to non-educational use
Some of the initial hopes for financially sustaining the labs had been placed more fully on charging fees for use of the labs to community members and business located near the labs. From the projects perspective, though, opening up the labs to a broader range of users from the local community had little hope for sustaining the labs while retaining any significant focus on education. dot-EDU, in meetings with USAID and Ministry personnel, continued to stress that this approach had only limited prospects for success, as, for it to succeed, the labs would be increasingly forced to cater their services to non-college, paying clients. In order to ensure that the labs retained their focus on supporting education at the colleges, education stakeholders would need to provide funding to support this focus. Further, many of the colleges are located outside of towns and away from commercial areas and large population centers.
The Turning Point
Through a series of consultations with Ministry staff and a workshop held in Jinja in April of 2004, stakeholders gradually came to accept that the colleges would need to develop funds through some mixture of Ministry funds] and student fees to sustain the labs while also ensuring that the lab use could remain focused on serving educational clients. In considering its options, in November the MOES decided to grant the colleges the authority to charge every student a single lab user fee for each academic term.
Additional efforts to achieve sustainability
This success brings the labs substantially closer to financial sustainability. Other work undertaken by the project has included working with the administrations and boards at the colleges to develop business plans to encourage the labs to better timetable the labs for use by both education and community clients, budget known costs, estimate revenue streams, and plan for financial sustainability. More recently, the MOES has approached USAID and Connect-ED to assist them in developing a comprehensive ICT and Education policy for the country.
The second phase of the Connectivity for Educator Development Project (Connect-ED) is funded by USAID/Uganda and implemented by the Educational Development Center (EDC) and the Academy for Educational Development (AED) under Associate Award # 617-A-00-03-0004-00 on October 1, 2003 for a period of two years.