Last month, we went to train a Teens Online Safety Workshop at Kwani? During the World Storytelling Day. I was massively challenged by the level of knowledge of the children. During the introductions, eight-year-olds were already learning code. This makes our school days a far cry, in comparison.
The Kenyan Education system is rapidly evolving to accommodate new technology. During our time, ability to read and write coherently, was a huge accomplishment for an eight-year-old. I don’t want to mention the exact year, for obvious reasons. A lady’s age is her well-kept secret. Moving on swiftly…
According to the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), the uptake of mobile phones continued to grow during the first quarter of the 2015/16 Financial year spanning July to September 2015. According to the quarterly sector statistics report by (CA), at the end of the quarter, mobile penetration stood at 88.1 per cent with 37.8 million subscribers up from 36.1 million in the previous quarter.
These developments are being reflected on by the approach to modern education. Organizations like Eneza Education are taking advantage of these facts to provide mobile solutions for school children. They have mobile applications that help students learn through the use of mobile phones. Text books can be very expensive, especially for children from resource strained backgrounds. Eneza Education’s solutions give students countrywide the privilege to have a virtual tutor, revision material and quizzes, at an affordable rate.
Akirachix is a non-profit organization that seeks to empower young women by providing programming, coding and IT skills. Their programs are developed to reach young women at different levels, in Primary, High School and University, those working in technology or aspiring to have a career in technology, making it an effectively wholesome program. They hold holiday Tech boot camps for children and teenagers, to encourage more young women to pursue careers in technology.
Some of these developments arise due to the gaps that exist in the Kenyan education system. One such initiative that integrates Technology with education is e-Limu. A group of young Kenyan technology experts invented a computer tablet with an educational program that has the potential to enhance the learning of school children. The interactive device, a tablet, aims to engage children as a teaching aide with videos, diagrams and quizzes.
ekitabu is yet another Kenyan innovation in the ed-tech field. They target to improve educational achievement, engaging students and teachers through ebooks, content creation, and becoming digital citizens. eKitabu has over 500,000 titles collected from educational publishers worldwide including books in Swahili, Arabic, Kinyarwanda and others approved for national curricula, with a growing list of languages and titles. They aim to lower the cost of books for education and increase access to them, in a sustainable way and at large scale. They have so far brought digital content to over 650 schools across Sub-Saharan Africa, in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Ghana.
Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO)’s project in Kibera- Africa’s largest urban slum. Among the projects I visited was their community school for girls and I must say that technology plays a big role in their curriculum. At the headmistress’ office, I saw some blue gadgets that looked like tablets. So out of curiosity, I asked Shilpa Guha, their Programs Liaison Fellow, what the gadgets were.
Apparently, Worldreader donated some e-readers to SHOFCO’s school. Worldreader provides e-readers to ensure distribution of literacy materials to produce digital citizens. The E-Readers have several books installed, including some of the curriculum texts. Well, this could just be the next bright solution for school going children. I’m saying this considering the bulk of textbooks that children carry daily to and from school. Some of those children as young as in class four carry very heavy bags full of text books daily.
“Tech plays a huge role in the curriculum we provide. Last week we sent some girls to Akirachix Tech and Arts kids camp”, says Shilpa. I am of the impression that partnerships between the educational sector and innovators, play a big role in incorporating Tech in education.
On my way home, I see children carrying backpacks with solar panels. I then remember the lady behind the innovation, Salima Visram, a young Kenyan who sought to solve the problem of lack of electricity for school going children’s night studying. Her innovation was among the many that were exhibited during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) held in Kenya last year. This solution is holistic because it addresses the academic, health and environmental components of children living in rural areas and urban slums that lack electricity.
Nairobi’s Innovation Hubs
This article will not have served its purpose without mention of Nairobi’s technology incubation hubs. According to this article on the African Business Magazine, Nairobi has become the tech hub of Africa, a niche that could be worth more than a billion dollars in the next few years.
One of these hubs is the iHub, which is located just a few miles from the Nairobi’s CBD. Most of these Kenyan Tech startups have been developed from this shared work-space that hosts innovators and entrepreneurs.
All these efforts to incorporate Technology in education are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG number 4 which states that by 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes. Article 4.7 a further states that by 2030, the goal is to build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.
Which brings me to the final point, Cyber security. As with every new development, there exists a downside. The use of some Technology in Education obviously exposes children to cyber bullying, identity theft and dangers of meeting strangers online who have bad intentions. This is why programs like BeTheCop by Communications Authority were developed. (CA) developed a booklet that has guidelines on child online protection. It can be used by any parent or guardian trying to communicate to children on online safety.
The Bloggers Association of Kenya also holds Teens Online workshops- these are online safety workshops to educate teenagers and parents. This is the reason why last month we were training children at Kwani?