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Kenyan student laptop program moves on amid criticism

April 22, 2013  »  EducationNo Comment

One of the most contentious issues in Kenyan politics is President Kenyatta’s promise for one laptop for every Class One public school student starting next year. The program sounds great at first listen, but becomes decidedly more complex as the components required for its success emerge.

A timeline of major press relating to the ordeal is quite lengthy and grows by the day.

March 2: Uhuru Kenyatta says a first executive decision in office would be the opportunity for every child to get a chance to be part of the digital revolution. Solar-laptops are mentioned as well. {Daily Nation}

March 16: The Economist reiterates Kenyatta’s promise of a solar-powered laptop for every Kenyan child. {The Economist}

March 23: Muthuri Kinyamu, a social media strategist, points out a few things about the proposed laptop program: corrupt officials could use the opportunity to siphon out money, government needs to emphasize success is a combination of student and technology, kids need to generate information (not just consume it), teachers need proper training to act as guides, security issues. {TechMoran}

April 3: The relevant part of the Jubilee manifesto reads: “…Work with international partners to provide solar powered lap-top computers equipped with relevant content for every school age child in Kenya…” Emphasized are the need to create a positive environment for creating digital citizens and the government need to encourage local content. Public participation in the project is considered as well are logistical issues of how to maintain and dispose of the laptops. {Diplo Internet Governance Community}

April 5: Electricity and training are needed. Providing every student with a laptop may not be truly feasible. Plus, some research suggests children learn best in groups. Tablets could be a cost-effective solution instead of laptops. {HumanIPO}

April 9: President Kenyatta assures the country that he will, within 100 days, ensure that all students joining class one in public school next year receive a laptop. Note: this has changed from his original campaign promise. {Capital FM}

April 11: Arguments for children in private schools to also receive free laptops are given. {Standard Digital}

April 12: Education PS George Godia affirms the ministry is ready to implement the laptop program. He claims the infrastructure is already in place and all that is needed is to scale the NEPAD and economic stimulus programs. {Standard Digital}

An op-ed states that only 5% of Kenyan schools have a computer and most teachers lack sufficient ICT skills. The author is concerned about rural schools and how software will be handled. {Standard Digital}

April 14: An op-ed has confidence the government can afford the project, but questions many other parts of the program. Concerns include teacher training, convincing students the computers are not toys, finding suitable software, and the logistics of submitting homework online where there is no Internet access. {Standard Digital}

The laptop project could cost Sh200 billion (nearly 75% of the annual education budget). Nearly 700,000 children will be owed a computer next year. A solar-powered laptop retails for Sh35,000 but will be purchased by the government in the Sh10,000 range. {Daily Nation}

April 16: The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education and Kenya National Union of Teachers do not feel the laptop project is a priority. The group instead wants the government to hire qualified teachers and to develop a stronger digital curriculum. {The Star}

April 17: Opinion that the laptop program is “populist rhetoric” and will fail within 100 days of delivery. But the nation will move on. {Standard Digital}

Hopefully, the laptops can be assembled locally at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology’s Nairobi Industrial and Technology Park. {Standard Digital}

April 18: Kenya Institute of Education (KIE) Director Lydia Nzomo states that the institute was ready for the laptop rollout. When the program launches, KIE will install curriculum content into the laptops and have them delivered to schools. {Standard Digital}

Information Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo claims the Jubilee laptop program will cost Sh150 billion over five years. It was not clear if the school laptops project would be carried out through the ministry of education or that of ICT. Either way, the government is studying a model used by Portugal in implementing a similar project. {The Star}

April 19: The Kenya National Association of Parents urges the government to delay the free laptop program until 2015 so that more teachers are trained with ICT skills. {HumanIPO}