In 2010, I started working as a computer lab technician at St. Peter’s SSS Nsambya. The headteacher then, Mr. Mpoza Joseph Mary always asked if there was anything new I would bring on board as far as ICT was concerned. Truth be told, I was green and inexperienced. Everytime, he met me, he would ask me the same question to which I had no answer.
So, someday, when I confided in my brother who was then a teacher at King’s College Budo, he gave me a couple of suggestions and what caught my attention was the electronic report card system. Myself being a teacher, report making was one of the tiresome periods during the term. Tiresome, not because of working with figures but because of the level of accuracy that was required.
The last 10 years also have seen a stable increase in enrollment in many schools making a manual report making process unthinkable of.
Back to Mr. Mpoza, on a certain Monday, I was eager to tell him how the school would make the report making process easier for the DOS, Mr. Kiwanuka. We then had a chat about the feasibility of introducing electronic report card. I was happy that as a newcomer at the school, I was contributing something worthwhile.
It was the next step that I hadn’t foreseen. There was a lot of resistance! The school had tried out an electronic report card which process had ended in disaster. Those who had experienced this were not willing to give machines another chance. It took the headteachers’ powers to insist that the school gave it another try.
What was agreed was that the previous system would not be given another chance. They had to seek the services of another provider whose system had to meet a minimum set of requirements.
Truth be told, without proper expertise, a wrong decision is bound to cost you money, time and other resources. The purpose of this article is to outline the five key things that you need to consider when selecting a school management system.
Ease of Access
A school management system that works should be one that can support multiple users working concurrently on multiple devices. In other words, it should help to speed up school operations as opposed to slowing them down. As such a solution that is web based or cloud based supporting multiple user access is the best fit for your institution.
Experience of the Developers
Due to the high number of schools in the country, every new software developer (from students to seasoned developers) salivates at the prospect of building and selling software to schools. Be that as it may, you need to trust a solution developed by people who are experienced and have insider knowledge of the education industry and how it works. You are safer in the hands of a company that has stood the test of time than in the hands of an inexperienced developer.
Independence in Data Management
The School Management System/Software that allows you a great deal of independence in data management and analysis is the one that is best suited for you. You should have the flexibility to add/manage learning areas/subjects/courses, manage fees structure, grading systems etc. None of the issues relating to data ought to be cast in stone or require you to call the software developers as and when you want to modify them.
No body wants to deal with different service providers for each function of the school. The best case scenario is where your school management system can address each and every function in the school ranging from academics to stores management, from finance to discipline, from health to library and most importantly have the ability to integrate with other systems such as Mobile Money providers and banks. The system should do all this while not creating any interference between users in the different departments. This is the software that functions holistically and allows the top management to have the school in the palm.
Solid Support System
Finally, you need to crosscheck with other schools or institutions that are using the system being proposed to you and how they are receiving support from the software provider. A solid and timely support system makes your life easy while you use the system.
Stephen Dumba is the National Coordinator of the ICT Teachers’ Association of Uganda. Besides teaching ICT, he repairs computers and builds websites. Steve is a speaker and facilitator at tech events and ICT workshops for students, teachers and school leaders. He is the Director E-zone School of Computing, E-zone Web Services, CEO of senior1.org and a consultant on education technology.
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