False! Ghana is NOT the only country in Africa to give SHS students laptops, tablets

Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia has said that Ghana is the only country in Africa to provide laptops or tablets to students in Senior High School (SHS).

Dr Bawumia, who is also the flagbearer of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), made the claim when he paid a courtesy call on the Ashanti Regional House of Chiefs on June 10, 2024, as part of his campaign tour ahead of the 2024 election.

He emphasised that the NPP government, led by President Akufo-Addo, recognises the role of education as a key driver of national development. As such, the government has since assuming power, invested in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme and the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme.

Fact-Check Ghana has verified the claim and presents the facts below.

Claim: “Today we’ve given them [Senior High School Students] laptops as well, one student, one tablet. I believe that in the whole of Africa, no country has given the Senior High School students one tablet or one laptop that they are working with.”

Verdict: False

Explanation: On March 25, 2024, the government launched the Ghana Smart Schools Project aiming to distribute 1.3 million tablets to SHS students to enhance teaching and learning across the country.

However, Ghana is not the only African country to implement such an initiative. Other African countries have also launched similar policies, some even preceding the Ghana Smart Schools Project.

To verify the Vice-President’s claim, Fact-Check Ghana reviewed news publications, government websites, and official documents from other African countries.

Below are three other African nations that have implemented similar initiatives, either across all levels of education or specifically at the senior high school level.

South Africa

In his 2019 State of the Nation address, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the government would provide every school child with a tablet containing digital textbooks and workbooks (see here, here and here). This initiative was reaffirmed by the Minister of Basic Education, who stated that the department was on track to supply each learner and teacher with an ICT device and access to digitised Learning and Teaching Support Materials (LTSMs).

The project was to be implemented in three phases according to five categories of schools also known as quintiles, one being the poorest and five being the least poor.

Phase 1 of the initiative was to target multi-grade, multiphase, farm and selected rural schools from 2020 to 2021. The second phase was to focus on quintile 1 to 3 schools (2022 – 2023), and phase 3 on quintile 4 and 5 schools (2024 – 2025).

State of the Province addresses (see here, here and here) and the budgets of Province Education Departments (here and here) sighted by Fact-Check Ghana on the South African Government website also showed that some of the tablets had already been distributed to students across the country.

Botswana

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development in Botswana announced that it would roll out laptops to all students and teachers starting with senior secondary schools. Additionally, a publication by UNESCO on Botswana’s technology policies indicates that the government had provided schools with laptops on a one-to-one (1:1) ratio basis. The publication further states that “as of December 2022, 31 of the 34 senior secondary schools in Botswana have received their laptops for individual teachers and learners, and three schools are expected to receive their consignment in January 2023. Special education needs (SEN) learners with visual impairment (VI) have also been provided with ICT devices in the form of Digital Braille Notetakers and Text Magnifiers. The second phase will cater for the junior secondary schools and the primary schools will come in the third and final phase.”

Mauritius

In 2014, the Government of Mauritius distributed about 24,000 tablets to students at the secondary school level. The government had to rethink its strategy due to poor device quality, poor or lacking school connectivity, a lack of digital materials and relevant learning resources, theft and hacking of the devices, and a lack of utilisation strategy.

The government subsequently introduced an  Early Digital Learning Programme in 2018. The programme included the provision of digital learning devices in the form of tablets to educators and students of grades 1 to 3. The initiative aimed to achieve the two-fold objective of improving learning and teaching as well as encouraging an early culture of IT usage.

Per the facts pointed out, it is evident that the implementation of one laptop/tablet, one student initiative has been implemented by other African countries. Therefore, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia’s claim that Ghana is the only country in Africa to provide laptops or tablets to senior high school students is inaccurate.

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