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We need a new approach to e-learning

Digital literacy education has been abandoned in some schools in Kenya due to lack of electricity and trained personnel 

By EDWIN NYONGESA

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) integration is one of the flagship programmes in the government’s blueprint. Broadly speaking, digital learning in Kenya encompasses the integration of ICT into teaching and learning right from grade one in primary school. The pilot project was successfully completed on 30 September 2016. Although the government’s digital literacy project beneficiaries in the pilot phase did not sit for the national exam then, research indicated that using technology to support instruction improved student outcomes in language, arts, math, social studies and science. This paved way for the country-wide rollout of e-learning. The integration of ICT in learning and teaching has given new insights into digital literacy, with teachers attending refresher courses on how to handle and deliver appropriate tech content.

Successful implementation 

Kenya has made great strides in embracing ICT.  The education sector has changed tremendously, with learning being skewed towards digital literacy. As such, a number of schools in the country have experienced construction and installation of ICT infrastructure key in the learning and teaching process. In Trans-Nzoia County for instance, St. Brigid’s Girls Kiminini has a modern computer laboratory well equipped with ICT material. Computer studies as a subject has attracted the attention of many students who seem to appreciate the fact that digital literacy is an industry force.  Most challenges facing humanity nowadays have solutions in ICT.

In schools where e-learning is taking place, a good number of pupils have demonstrated the ability to use the gadgets in an effort to promote education. Such trends will go a long way in putting the country on the digital map in line with the rest of the world. Studies have indicated that students using technology as an education tool become more engaged in the process and more interested in growing their knowledge base. Likewise, other researches have demonstrated that interactive solutions boost retention rates and test scores, being far more engaging and memorable than voluminous textbooks. Such efforts are geared towards transforming the education sector, with digital literacy being top priority.

Real obstacles 

Nevertheless, ICT integration has faced real obstacles. To begin with, the programme has not been fully embraced in many secondary schools. Most county and sub-county schools have limited resources and ICT is not a priority. Most schools lack computer laboratories and those that exist are not fully equipped. It is disheartening to note that most students complete school while computer illiterate. This is a major drawback considering how fast digital revolution is sweeping across the continent. There is an acute shortage of computer teachers in many schools that I have visited across Trans-Nzoia County. Some have been forced to employ untrained tutors to teach ICT. This is a major shortcoming. More trained personnel are required for the entire process to be a success. There is also great need to train other teachers on how to integrate technology in teaching, and not just computer teachers. 

Thumbs up!

While the government has done great by fully implementing digital learning in all primary schools, there is need to ensure all schools have power. Reportedly, some primary schools in marginalized areas have no access to electricity. This has made ICT integration a nightmare. Some schools have no secure rooms to keep the gadgets safe. Perhaps it is time the government puts in place appropriate implementation mechanisms to ensure smooth operation with quality output.

ICT holds the key through which Kenya can compete with the rest of the world. In order to achieve digital literacy education for all in the wake of the forth-industrial revolution, the government should make digital education accessible in all schools. While some students in the part of the country have never set eyes on a computer, it is perhaps time the government started preaching the need for computer learning in schools. It is the effort of all and sundry that will save the ICT situation in the country. Maybe, ICT learning should be made compulsory if the government seeks to address the e-learning challenge in the country.

All said and done, digital literacy is here to stay. The earlier we embrace it the better! 

Edwin Nyongesa is a teacher of English and Literature at St. Anthony’s Kinyoro Secondary school in Trans-Nzoia County. Email: nyongesa29@gmail.com

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