Kenya’s Jubilee’s Laptop Initiative Needs Some More Thought


Providing solar-powered laptops for Standard One pupils an idea whose time is yet to come for Kenya.Budget considerations alone means that the provision of laptops will cost taxpayers a whooping Sh52 billion for purchase of basic hardware in the first year of the project alone. This cost is expected to skyrocket and climb significantly when the software costs and other required technical inputs are factored into the deal.

Estimates have been mentioned that the cumulative cost could go as high as Sh200 billion a year– three quarters of the annual national education budget! There is no deny the great need for introducing ICT skills very-early-on in life to drive Kenya into a sustainable knowledge economy and increase our pace towards vision 2030. But what is our level of preparedness for such an ambitious project? Are there not other competing and pressing priorities facing not the education sector and the country at large?

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Those calling for caution are aware that the idea is to increase access to IT and with it improve quality of our basic education,
modelled along the path of the global one lap top per child initiative started some years back by Nicholas Negroponte aimed at ending poverty by mass application/use of computers.

This has been piloted in Rwanda and Ethiopia to transform education in these countries through ‘collaborative, joyful and self-empowered learning’. But like in Peru, these laptops particularly in most rural schools have come to be more symbolic toys than practical learning tools.

I can’t help to agree more with Uwezo– the learning assessment platform working across East Africa–that in a country where only 5% of teachers have achieved requisite levels of basic computer literacy, introducing computers in standard one without competent teachers to guide learning will be a nightmare, and might end up being a big waste of public funds.

The Association of Professional Teachers, has made this even clearer, when they state in their 2012 teacher capacity assessment or audit report that majority of teachers are poorly equipped with basic computer techniques and largely deficient in rudimentary IT skills.