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March 27, 2018

Bringing the digital revolution to all primary schools in Kenya

By ITU News

To mark Mobile Learning Week 2018, ITU News takes a look at the Kenyan government’s effort to prepare Kenya’s primary school pupils for a better future by bringing mobile learning solutions to primary school classrooms throughout the country.

Sub-Saharan Africa has steadily witnessed an impressive increase in primary school enrolment, but the overall quality of education is suffering. Literacy and numeracy skills among primary school pupils are below expected levels.

This is due to a range of factors, often including a shortage of trained and motivated teachers, an insufficient supply of learning materials, and classrooms that are becoming more and more crowded.

Can mobile learning solutions help solve some of these problems while preparing students for the jobs of the future?

The Kenyan government is convinced of it.

Taking a mobile learning solution to scale in Kenya

On September 30 2016, after the successful completion of a pilot project, Kenya launched the nation-wide rollout of its Digital Literacy Programme.

Fast forward to March 2018, by which time the ICT Authority has spearheaded the distribution of over one million devices to more than 19,000 public primary schools across the country.

Some 91,000 teachers have been trained to deliver the digital learning content and more than 89.2 % of all the public primary schools have been supplied with the devices, says the ICT Authority. At the same time, teachers across the country’s public primary schools have reported increased student alertness, boosted school attendance, and increased school admissions, according to the ICT Authority.

What the Digital Literacy Programme does

The Digital Literacy Programme (DLP) delivers laptops and tablet devices pre-loaded with interactive digital content in Math, English, Science and Kiswahili, to all primary school teachers and pupils to enhance their classroom experience.

“The Government’s mandate is to ensure every Kenyan child receives quality education that equips them with the 21st century skills, including digital literacy.” — Joe Mucheru, ICT Ministry

Under this programme, the learners get a tablet while the teachers get a laptop. Each school receives a projector, server and router. Special needs learners receive a laptop adapted to their needs.

“The Government’s mandate is to ensure every Kenyan child receives quality education that equips them with the 21st century skills including digital literacy,” Joe Mucheru, Kenya’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) Cabinet Secretary, told The Standard last autumn.

Partnering for nationally led solutions

To successfully deliver the Digital Learning Programme to all public primary schools in the country, it was necessary to develop the digital content and solution, carry out a pilot, and strengthen national infrastructure for electricity and the internet.

The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) developed relevant interactive digital content.

The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Moi University won the government tender to oversee the production, supply and installation of the digital learning solution.

After a successful ‘Proof of Concept Phase’ involving 150 schools, the contracted universities set up two local plants to assemble the devices for the Digital Literacy Programme. While most of the 1.2 devices have been bought from China, the Nation reported that the government plans to have about 100,000 homegrown mobile computers rolled out in the first phase of the project.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology strengthened the capacity and ICT skills of teachers to use mobile learning devices, and the programme has been designed to comply with the national e-waste policy.

Other key partnerships

With the support of a wide range of external and internal partners, including the Chinese Government, Huawei, and Telkom Kenya, the ICT Authority led the effort to build the required Internet infrastructure for the project.

“When we put these devices in the hands of our children, we are securing not just their future but that of the country and look forward to being a global IT powerhouse in a few years.” — Joe Mucheru

Robert Mugo, CEO of the ICT Authority recently explained that “over 6,000 km of fibre have been laid out countrywide and this will ensure that there is Internet connectivity in all the public primary schools to enable the digital learning that the DLP is targeting.’’

The Digital Literacy Programme has generated approximately 11,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to the ICT Authority. This includes jobs at ICT support centres, at local plants that assemble the laptops, and in digital-education content development, as well as in waste management and disposal.

Highlighting the importance of  the Digital Literacy Programme, Mr Joe Mucheru said: “When we put these devices in the hands of our children, we are securing not just their future but that of the country and look forward to being a global IT powerhouse in a few years.”

Photo: SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images

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