Kenya’s road to digital literacy in schools

 

Kenya is doubling up on its ambitious project to roll out digital literacy in schools as part of its overall objective of cashing in on the expanding digital economy. The digital literacy programmes seeks to prepare students for the jobs of the future, most of which will be domiciled in the virtual space.

The plan begun in 2016 when Kenya launched the Digital Literacy Programme in primary schools. Under the plan, more than one million devices have been given out to more than 19,000 public primary schools across the country. Also about 91,000 teachers have been trained to deliver the digital learning content and more than 89.2 percent of all the public primary schools have been supplied with necessary devices.

Experts say while Kenya is on the right path in preparing its young population for digital revolution, more effort is needed to ensure that the country has the necessary tools to plug into the global virtual economy.

ICT administrator Julius Kariuki, notes that subsidising the tax for educational devices and software for learners, as well as coming up with computer lessons for learners as young as in PP1 are some of the measures that the government can employ to realise digital literacy in the current generation.

Mr Kariuki says that the government should also prioritise offering learners IT literacy materials that are accessible on devices across the country.

“This should be in addition to employing qualified ICT personnel/trainers in all schools who can lead in ICT literacy programmes,” he says.

Digital educationist Janet Mulei avers that future career paths need students with necessary skills for emerging technologies such as the artificial intelligence, big data, the Internet of Things, robotics, cloud computing, machine learning and cyber security.

Ms Mulei is the Director of Diamond Junior School, which has attracted international recognition as an institution promoting digital learning. The school received the GESS Education award in Dubai for best use of digital learning in the classroom.

“The skills will drive growth across industries as diverse as health, technology, education, marketing and agriculture among others,” Ms Mulei notes.

“Virtually every country in the world is working towards a digital economy. As this new economy evolves, special skills like computer programming are needed.”

Students, she adds, need to learn these new technologies early enough and be adept with them.

 A number of studies have assessed the effect of learning code on primary school children between the ages of six and 13. In each case, the findings show that digital knowledge is beneficial to children irrespective of the career path they choose.

 “Coding is just another language, and children are known to learn new languages faster than older people. So starting young is a good idea,” Ms Mulei advises.

“Several countries which include Australia, Finland, Italy and England have developed coding curriculum for children between the ages of five and 16 year.”

Despite the progress Kenya is making in literacy programmes, challenges abound. A study published by The University of Nairobi in 2021 on Implementation of Digital Literacy Program in Public Primary Schools, found that there is lack of basic infrastructure and facilities for effective learning.

The report also cited the lack of training of relevant stakeholders, inadequate learning devices, power failures, resourcing issues (both human and financial), inadequate popularisation of the DLP, mismatch of the existing Competency Based Curriculum and the DLP as well as lack of internet access as  major hurdles standing in the way of the programme.

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