Kenya’s education sector will need more than just laptops

eLimu founder Nivi Mukherjee says it will take more than the incoming Jubilee government’s promise to provide free laptops to primary school children to improve education standards in Kenya.

Mukherjee, whose award-winning eLimu startup provides educational content, has been involved in the provision of laptops to schools and believes lifting educational standards will require more than just the devices given the number of unforeseen challenges.

She told HumanIPO provision of electricity, internet and training of teaching staff could prove challenges to Uhuru Kenyatta’s ambitions, while also questioning the wisdom of trying to provide every student with an individual laptop.

According to Mukherjee, research has shown children tend to learn better and faster in groups, as demonstrated by the ‘Hole in the Wall experiment’ by Sugata Mitra.

Above all, she believes it is unwise for the government to buy laptops as the world moves towards tablets, which are cheap, energy conserving and more portable.

“With tablets it is much easier to work out a cheaper deal given the economies of scale the country is likely to benefit from, with various countries such as India and China likely to offer competitive prices,” she said.

eLimu is currently acquiring tablets for as low as US$100 with laptops expected to cost more.

Apart from problems arising from the hardware, Mukherjee argues the government is yet to create an e-learning curriculum based on changing times, with the curriculum in use having last been updated more than 30 years ago.

She admits it might take years before the government comes up with an e-learning curriculum, though she urged the Ministry of Education to team up with the private sector and organisations such as eLimu, who have a ready curriculum that incorporates the 8-4-4 system.

“In our platform we have all the six subjects being examined by the KCPE as well as additional courses in life such as financial literacy, human rights, environment and many others that we have been giving to schools,” she said.

As to whether the devices will boost education standards, she said recent pilots conducted by her organisation saw a school they have been piloting emerge as the best performing school in the Dagoretti area.

She says with sober discussions among the experts and the crafting of a strategy paper the exercise is bound to succeed.

Currently her organisation, which recently benefitted from an investment of US$100,000, is strengthening the its platform to allow it to accommodate over 100,000 student user accounts, having completed its pilot projects in Nairobi and Busia.

eLimu says it has witnessed increasing interest in Kenya’s education sector since Mukherjee was selected by the Capital City African-American Chamber of Commerce (CCAACC) to represent the continent at this year’s South by South West (SXSW), a major emerging technologies event in the United States, making her and Simeon Oriko, founder of The Kuyu Project, the first ever Africa Diaspora Fellows alongside.

Posted in: Policy

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