When the Jubilee Alliance promised during the election campaign that each child joining Class One would have a free solar-powered laptop if Uhuru Kenyatta’s coalition was elected, the Kenya Forum, like many people, saw it as just one of those big
promises politicians make to lure voters. However, the reality of what seemed like an ambitious, even far-fetched plan, came to pass when President Uhuru Kenyatta reaffirmed his governments’ commitment to honour the pledge during his inaugural speech and went ahead to even give a time-line during his first address when the 11th parliament opened early this month.
“We made a promise to our children and we will keep it because we believe early exposure to technology will inspire future innovation and be a catalyst for growth and prosperity” said President Kenyatta.
WELL INTENTIONED BUT WILL IT WORK?
The country is making strides to advance in technology and the laptop programme is certainly a well-intentioned idea to ensure that children are exposed to technology at a young age.
Critics have expressed their concerns, citing a myriad of challenges that make the laptop programme unviable, with some of them referring to it as ‘a misplaced priority’. The biggest challenge cited has been poor infrastructure in schools.
It is a reality that in some counties across the country, children have no access to classrooms and some study under trees distracted by empty stomachs, but it’s also a fact that with technology, you can acquire knowledge from anywhere. A good number of higher learning institutions in the country have embraced e-learning programmes where you just study online, do your exams and get your certificates.
Some people have argued that the laptops should be given to students joining Form One and first year university students.
COMPUTER STUDIES IN THE CURRICULUM
An important factor in making the free laptop programme a long-term success would be to review the curriculum in order to accommodate for computer studies at the primary school level which is only currently available in the secondary school level, but as an optional subject.
Installing equipped computer laboratories in all public schools would also go a long way in ensuring that all students in general, have access to computers.
This means that knowledge in computer studies should not be left as an option for teachers but a requisite skill because a high percentage of them are said to be computer illiterate.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO MATCH PRIVATE SECTOR
Learning in the high end private schools has gone digital and most children have access to laptops and iPads. The one laptop per child project in public schools puts these children at par with their counterparts in the private sector.
The one-laptop programme for primary school students is being implemented in Rwanda, and fully in Peru and Uruguay. The project had also been tried but failed in Nigeria.
The world is changing, and if you look at how easy learning has become to those in higher institutions due to technology, you can only imagine how things would have been if the same generation had access to this from pre-school.
The new government’s agenda is to raise a generation of tech savvy Kenyans and regardless of our individual politics the free laptop programme appears to be a step ahead in transforming Kenya into a hub of information and communication technology in Africa.