Education Minister Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum shows a sample of the tablet on News File.

The Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, has announced that the first batch of 450,000 free student tablets fully funded through the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFUND) will be distributed next week.

According to him, the distribution of tablets has been categorized into three phases, with 450,000 to be distributed to 32 schools to ensure the effective distribution of a total of 1.3 million tablets.

President Akufo-Addo announced on March 25 the distribution of 1.3 million tablets to public Senior High School and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) students.

According to him, this initiative, under the Smart School Project is part of the government's measures to ensure that all sectors of the country are digitised.

Speaking on JoyNews’ Newsfile on Saturday, March 30, the Education Minister said “The 450,000 is a little less than 30 %, the deployment is such that it is in three phases. The first phase which is hitting the regions and schools in the next coming week, is going to 32 schools in the 16 regions.

He said a system has been created to monitor the effective distribution of the tablets.

“Once it gets to the school, there is a dashboard that informs us the tablets are here. The whole idea is to ensure that you will do a phased approach to deployment and don’t get the system overwhelmed.”

“Once we get them to the 32 schools, then within a week or two thereafter the rest which is phase two also starts moving to the schools, so it’s a phased deployment” he noted.

He said the student mate one tablet comes with a keyboard as a complement that can make it function as a laptop or solely as a tablet.

“There’s also a power bank in it, and in case the power goes out, there’s a solar panel that allows you to charge it using solar in the case of this device. So, that is in response to the issue of erratic power supply at certain times.

The Minister explained that this is part of attempts in the future to gradually phase out textbooks by infusing them into the tablet.

According to him, ICT Coordinators in the schools have offered training to teachers and will continue to train the schools receiving the tablets on their effective usage. Dr Adutwum clarified that the unit price for each tablet is $250, and not GHS250.

The first 450,000 tablets are to cost 112 million cedis, whereas the entire 1.3 million will amount to 325 million Ghana cedis.

Misplaced priority or not?

On the matter of whether it was prudent for the government to spend huge amounts on free tablet distribution when the Free SHS policy was facing other pressing challenges, the Bosomtwe MP explained that the logistical challenges of the Free SHS programme are separate from budgetary constraints, clarifying that funds allocated for this tablet project under the government’s digitalization agenda cannot be diverted to address feeding challenges faced by students under the policy.

“The interesting thing about Free SHS is that you can have logistical challenges and that’s not a budget issue, so we have 1.4 million children miles away that we are feeding a day, you can have challenges where food may not have reached a certain location on time.

“The idea is very simple; there are some people who will say use that in providing food for them, but no, there is a budget. There is a difference between a budget allocation and a cash flow allocation, so even if I want to, the law does not allow me to tell GETFUND that I need your money to buy food instead of the tablets you have allocated funds for in your funding formula, so there is a difference between a cash flow logistical issue and a budget issue.

How to deal with faulty tablets in schools

When the host of News File, Sampson Lardi Ayenini asked about the possible malfunctioning, breakdown or mishandling of the tablets by the students, the sector minister revealed that schools with a population exceeding one thousand will have dedicated repair centres on-site to address any issues promptly.

He emphasized that while gadget abuse is common when students understand that their academic success depends on the tablet, they are more diligent in using it, leading to increased carefulness.

“I will give you an example of what I did in one of my schools in the US. One interesting thing that happened when I deployed laptops at the time, we were dreading that the students would lose their laptops. We had insurance on it. It turned out in the end that after three years when we evaluated the deployment of laptops in my school in the US, 100 per cent of the students' laptops were intact. It was rather the teachers who lost their laptops.

“So you see, sometimes we underestimate the care that students give to the things that matter to them. When they know how much this matters to them they are not going to just destroy it. When they know that their homework is not going to be done if I do not take good care of this and you train them well and somebody is there to fix it for them, then there is insurance on it.

“Things work in some very unique ways to amaze you” he added.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.