Irina Bokova: Plan Ceibal has transformed the privilege of few into a right for all
On 13 September 2012, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova kicked off her official visit to Uruguay at the Escuela Grecia in Montevideo. She was accompanied by the Minister of Education and Culture Mr. Ricardo Ehrlich, Vice-Minister of Education and Culture, President of the National Commission of Uruguay for UNESCO Mr. Oscar Gomez da Trinidade, the Ambassador of Uruguay to UNESCO Mr. Omar Mesa and the Director of UNESCO’s Office in Montevideo Mr. Jorge Grandi.
During her visit to the school, she was greeted by enthusiastic primary school students, who proudly spoke about their work using their CEIBALITA laptop computers – these are part of the Plan Ceibal (Conectividad Educativa de Informática Básica para el Aprendizaje en Línea), launched in April 2007, to provide one laptop per child and teacher in Primary and Early Secondary Education and prepare teachers in their use. This Plan seeks to promote social inclusion and to bridge the digital gap among Uruguayan citizens, facilitating access to education and culture.
At a special ceremony, the Director-General was welcomed by the Director-General of the Primary Education counsel Mr. Hector Florit, the President of the Plan Ceibal, Mr. Miguel Brechner, the Director of the School, Ms. Monica Martinez, the Department Inspector and teacher Ms. Nelly Fernandez, and the Inspector of the Zone and teacher Mr. Jorge Sapka. Addressing the school authorities and students, the Director-General said that she was honoured to be visiting the GRECIA School and to have the opportunity to learn about the Plan CEIBAL. She underlined that in the 21st century, universal access to knowledge and quality education could be accelerated with the introduction of communication and information technologies in schools.
Referring to an established network of professionals and volunteers that aims at ensuring full and free access to internet for all educational centers, called FORO-RAP-CEIBAL (Red de Apoyo al Plan Ceibal), the Director-General said that the Plan Ceibal is now rooted in the local landscape, because the computers are in the hands of children who use them everywhere. Special efforts have focused on low income neighborhoods that include a large number of children attending public education, seeking to secure internet access in those areas, as well as in public spaces (urban squares, parks, shopping centers). No child has to walk more than 300 meters to access internet.
This project has transformed the privilege of a few into a right for all -- placing Uruguay as the first country in the world to cover its entire primary and early secondary education with laptops, connectivity, educational contents and training, and transforming family life for all involved.
The Director-General added, however, that the mere incorporation of technology in educational centers is insufficient to meet such an objective. It is necessary to provide an educational system in line with the new requirements, both for students and teachers. To that end, Plan Ceibal has devised a comprehensive strategy for teacher training “online” and face to face, as well as courses for the community at large available through the web and a TV channel (Canal Ceibal).