At last some potentially good news for the thousands of pupils in our 7,000 under funded and inundated state secondary schools more used to trying to learn with tatty text books and a blackboard (but no chalk): digital education is coming to Kenya.
TOUCH SCREEN TABLETS
A new technology company called eLimu (elimu means “education” in Swahili) have started a for-profit venture and are running a pilot project scheme putting tablet computers with touch screens loaded with a multimedia version of the syllabus into schools. One of the first schools to get the new equipment was Amaf school in Kawangware.
Meanwhile, Safaricom is developing classroom content from videotaped lessons that will be available online and Amazon has seen sales of its e-readers grow by a multiple of 10 in the last year.
IMPROVED READING SKILLS
Will digital education work here with regards to improving education? The Kenya Forum thinks it might.
When a similar scheme was rolled out in Ghana studies showed reading skills improved greatly and results in science at Amaf school rose from an average of 58 to 73 out of 100 in one term. A study in Ethiopia found that pupils benefited from using the tablets even without the help of a teacher.
AFFORDABLE MICRO PAYMENTS
Will parents pay for it? The Kenya Forum thinks they will if they can.
In Kenya many parents pay for tuition for their children out of school in addition to paying school fees. The new eLimu system charges by making micro-payments per download but the figures are not astronomical, perhaps Ksh850 per month, and digital content is likely to get cheaper rather than more expensive in the long term.
Kenya led the world in mobile money transfer through the Mpesa service whose use has grown exponentially since the system was introduced. Let’s hope we see a similar growth in digital education in Kenya.