Kenyan School Pilots Mobile Technology in the Classroom

NtugiGroup 91The newly developed Power of M-Learning Project aims to improve academic performance in Kenyan primary schools by using 3G enabled tablets to deliver the newly digitized Kenyan curriculum. The project is currently being piloted by 250 students and 35 teachers in Nairobi’s Embakasi Garrison Primary School.

The pilot program was developed collaboratively to address the specific challenges facing Kenyan schools. Students and teachers are using solar powered tablets, making the program sustainable for many schools with limited or no access to electricity. 3G wireless technology provides access to the eLimu platform, which was developed by two Kenyan women to specifically support youth in Kenya. The eLimu application contains content from all 6 Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) subject areas and uses games, songs, 3D animations, and quizzes to encourage student engagement.

The Power of M-Learning Project aims to address the challenge of teacher shortages in the area, where the teacher to student ratio has grown to 1:56. The tablets will make learning more personalized and will allow for more individual feedback for students.

Limited access to resources has traditionally made learning difficult in Kenya.  Typically, three pupils share a Kiswahili, English, and Mathematics textbook. The project aims to create a sustainable solution by using digital resources.  Attendance has also traditionally been a problem. In many districts, 4 out of 10 students miss school daily. The new  digital platform for learning is designed to increase student engagement and improve attendance rates.

The project was developed in partnership with Bboxx Kenya, eLimu, iHub Research, Safaricom, and Motorolla in collaboration with the Kenya Ministry of Education. It is expected to be replicated in other public schools to complement the controversial laptop program being instituted by the government.

Nivi Mukherjee, co-founder of eLimu, explained the rationale behind their approach. “When you’re showing children examples that they can’t easily relate to, part of their brain is distracted. So when we’re talking about fractions, we don’t use a pizza as an example, we use a chapatti. We also follow the national curriculum, so this content is specifically geared towards Kenyan youth.”

Creative Commons LoveNtugiGroup on




Kenya Launches “Beyond Zero” Campaign for Maternal and Child Health

Women in Meru, Kenya, examining Menstrual CupsThe First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta launched the “Beyond Zero” campaign to combat high levels of maternal and child morbidity and mortality throughout the country.

This program aims to increase access to medical care in order to reduce rates of maternal, newborn and child illnesses and death. To achieve this, Kenya will focus upon health prevention and maintenance, along with HIV management.

Margaret Kenyatta expressed her concern with maternal and child mortality rates in Kenya, saying, “we have all heard the figures. These are not just statistics. These are our fellow Kenyan sisters and children who die largely as a result of pregnancy and HIV related complications which are preventable.”

According to recent statistics, fifteen Kenyan women die daily due to complications related to pregnancy. This translates to a maternal mortality rate of 360 women for every 100,000 childbirths. Twenty percent of all maternal deaths are related to HIV and AIDS.

For every 1000 births, there are 22 stillbirths, 27 neonatal fatalities and 48 infant deaths. Additionally, 107,000 children under the age of five die each year in Kenya, often from preventable diseases. HIV and AIDS contribute to these statistics, with 15% of these deaths being due to complications of this infection and another 13,000 children being newly diagnosed each year. Outcomes of infection are affected by the fact that nearly 62% of all HIV-positive children live without access to antiretroviral drugs that would significantly prolong their lives and improve their health.

“I am deeply saddened by the fact that women and children in our country die from causes that can be avoided. It doesn’t have to be this way. This is why I am launching the ‘Beyond Zero Campaign’ which will bring prenatal and postnatal medical treatment to women and children in our country,” said Margaret Kenyatta.

This campaign will raise health awareness, prevention and access to medical services. To achieve this, Kenya will purchase mobile health clinics to improve health outreach to women and children throughout the country. The program also aims to ensure health facilities have the supplies they need and a sufficient number of qualified healthcare providers.  The Equity Bank of Kenya has pledged $580,000 to complement the $400 million the Ministry of Health will spend on these initiatives.

On World AIDS Day 2013, Kenya released a plan entitled “Strategic Framework for the Engagement of the First Lady in HIV Control and Promotion of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Kenya.” It focused upon implementing policies and programs to reduce new HIV infections in women and children and to quickly reducing maternal and newborn deaths. To achieve this,  the framework suggests investments in high impact interventions, active involvement of leadership and communities, and the mobilization of men to facilitate change. The “Beyond Zero” campaign falls under this framework.

In response to the campaign’s announcement,  21 year-old HIV-positive law student Dorcas Kawira, stated “I wished that my mother had better access to maternal health care services that would have protected her from contracting HIV,” explained Dorcas Kawira, a 21 year old HIV positive law student


Creative Commons Love: SuSanA Secretariat on

Smartphone App Brings Eye Exams to Students in Rural Kenya

Another Day, Another Eye ExamA new smartphone app called the Portable Eye Examination Kit (PEEK) is bringing eye exams to students in rural Kenya. Colloquially called the “pocket optician,” the app is intended to catch eye problems in children who lack access to a traditional eye doctor.

Eight teachers in Kitale, Kenya will be the first to be trained to use PEEK in their classrooms. Designed to be mobile and used with only basic training, teachers can give eye exams to their students and catch eye problems before they become a serious issue and cause students to fall behind in school.

PEEK was designed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and works by displaying a shrinking letter on the phone’s screen to be used as a vision test. Additionally, the phone’s flashlight and camera can be used to scan the retina for optic nerve health and the lens for cataracts. Results of the exams are stored on the phone to be emailed to doctors, who can follow up with any eye health issues.

Though PEEK is still in the trial stage, early results are encouraging, and those involved in the project are excited about its potential.

Peter Ackland, from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, notes that “teachers are the gateway to testing children in many low-income countries.” PEEK could prevent situations where, due to a lack of human resources to conduct eye exams, children “go through life with an eye condition that’s entirely avoidable.”

According to the World Health Organization, 258 million people are blind or visually impaired, but four out of five cases could be prevented or cured with treatment. The most common problem in children is simply poor eyesight, which, when diagnosed and corrected with glasses, drastically increases children’s opportunity and ability to perform well at school.

Creative Commons Love: Nomadic Lass on

Kenya Honored for “Character and Creativity Initiative”

Word games, at school, Ulamba Orphanage, W. Kenya A Kenya-pioneered program that fosters a culture of compassion in schools and improves academic performance has been singled out for mention at this year’s Global Peace Convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The innovative program, entitled the Character and Creativity Initiative, has been met with such success in Kenyan schools that it has begun to spread across the world.

The Character and Creativity Initiative (CCI), from LeadIn and the Global Peace Foundation, is a series of trainings and programs that aim to positively impact high school students by encouraging peace, understanding, and creativity in schools. First pioneered in six Kenyan schools in 2010, the program has since spread to 40 schools in Kenya, and has now reached schools in other parts of Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia, and North America.

American educationist and engineer Tony Divine oversaw CCI’s implementation in Kenya. According to him the Initiative encourages both teachers and students to adopt new values. He says that teachers who were previously impatient with unmotivated and underperforming students “understood them better” after the Initiative, and students who had been disengaged or troublemakers “earned fresh motivation that helped them engage in productive activities.”

According to LeadIn’s 2013 evaluation report on the Initiative, participating schools not only showed a positive change in students’ self-esteem and interpersonal relationships, but bullying and drug/alcohol abuse among students decreased and academic performance increased.

The Global Peace Convention, which honored CCI among its 1,000 delegates and organizations from 40 countries, this year hosted for the first time a Global Summit on Character and Creativity. CCI chair Professor Leah Marangu spoke to delegates at the Convention, describing CCI as a trait of Kenya’s “top schools.”

Schools that have adopted the Character and Creativity Initiative are reinventing the education system, she said, and “harnessing the hidden qualities of their teachers, students, and even parents.”

Creative Commons Love: Moving Mountains Trust on

National Exam Grading Begins in Kenya Amidst Controversy

Exams Start... NowMore than 17,000 teachers have reported to 25 marking centers across the country to begin grading the nearly 438 thousand Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams. Grading has begun despite threats by the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) to boycott the grading process.

A strike was proposed to force the Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) to address several grievances. Specifically, Kuppet called for Knec to review taxation rates for teachers, provide accommodations at marking centers, and give teachers marking examinations a 300% pay raise. Until these demands were given due attention, Deputy Secretary General of Kuppet, Moses Nthurima, declared that no members of the union would mark any papers.

In response to this threat, Paul Wasanga, CEO of Knec, declared “examinations marking must got on as scheduled, anybody planning to disrupt the exercise should know that it is illegal and would be dealt with accordingly…This is an individual teacher’s decision. They choose to sign up or not.”

In response to this controversy, Chairman of Kenya Secondary School Heads Associate, John Awiti pointed out that it will be students and their parents who are harmed by a potential boycott which would delay the examinations and their grading. He stated “We do not want to gamble with the marking exercise…Candidates played their part by studying hard and to also write the examinations. It would be unreasonable for these children not to get their results because Knec and Kuppet did not agree.”

Despite concerns that test results would be delayed due to union grievances, grading has begun as planned. Test results for the KCSE will be released by the end of December, and then results for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) will be released by the end of February. According to the Knec, union demands will not be ignored but will be dealt with in early 2014.

Creative Commons Love: Ryan M. on

Kenyan Teachers Struggle After End of Strike

School meeting with parents(1)Many Kenyan teachers are struggling to survive on smaller-than-usual paychecks this month after the end of a country-wide teachers’ strike. The 24-day strike involved 240,000 of Kenya’s public school teachers, who protested to demand a pay increase and allowances originally promised by the government in 1997.

Following an intervention by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission after the close of the strike, Kenya’s public school teachers only received a quarter of their usual pay for the month of July.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), the original striking body, immediately promised to strike again if teachers did not receive their full July salaries. Though President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced that they will eventually receive their wages, many teachers struggle to feed their families and pay for necessities while they wait.

Edith Nekesa, a teacher and single mother of three, plans on sending her children away to live with her parents for the coming month, since she cannot afford to feed them. Many teachers are reported to have taken out loans.

Many teachers also worry that the fragile bargain between KNUT and the government will not hold once the school year starts this fall.

The deal reached last month at the end of the strike provides for a pay increase and some allowances for teachers, though less than they expected from the 1997 agreement. It also ensures the teachers’ union’s support of Kenya’s controversial free laptop project.

Despite the controversies of the bargain, public opinion seems to support the teachers’ position.

Albert Mwangi, a Nairobi resident, spoke about teachers’ demands to Think Africa Press: “If a teacher is not able to feed his or her family,” he said of the missing wages, “he or she will not be able to come to class and give quality education to the students.”

Creative Commons LoveThe Advocacy Project on

Indian Universities Work To Recruit East African Students

India’s higher education sector is determined to once again achieve the title of being the leading destination for students from Africa and is holding workshops in East Africa in an effort to attract more students.


According to Sibabrata Tripathi, the Indian High Commissioner to Kenya, Indian universities are popular because of the affordable cost, use of English, and the quality of education. Additionally, the institutions arrange for visas for the students, making the process easier on the students and parents.

Some of the courses that marketed to foreign students include Bachelor’s Degrees in: engineering, nursing, commerce, information and communication technology, and law.

Kenya, with 3,500 students in India, currently has the most African students there. Uganda is currently working with India to sign a pact to ease the student visa and temporary work permit process for students, due to a growing interest to study there.

There are currently 25,000 African students studying in 500 public and private universities throughout the country.

Creative Commons Love: Steven S. on Flickr

Kenya National Union of Teachers Calls off Strike

Kenya: Enumerator administers the Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA)Less than an hour after the government announced an indefinite closure of primary schools, Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) ended its strike on July 17, 2013.

For more than three weeks, about 240,000 primary and secondary school teachers were on strike. The teachers pleaded for higher travel, housing, and medical allowances as well as a 500% pay increase, which the government was supposed to guarantee under a deal passed in 1997.

Though initially reluctant to settle for a deal, KNUT accepted the government’s offer of 16.8 billion shillings (USD 193 million), which is far off from USD 540 million asked by the union.

The First Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto, made clear that the government cannot offer any more money. Ruto said, “The deal you have been given by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) on commuter allowance cannot be added or reduced. We are operating within a very tight budget”. He added, “We want to negotiate in a structured manner so that the agreement is honored irrespective of who is in office”.

The commuter allowance will be paid over two installments, the first tranche by the end of this month and the last starting July 2014. The deal also promises a flat rate of 10,000 shillings (USD 115) for teachers engaged in special education.  Settlements for medical and housing allowances will be negotiated with the State Medical Insurance Fund and a state agency responsible for public workers’ pay.

KNUT represented by its Secretary General Mudzo Nzili, accused Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) of being inconsiderate. Nzili commented, “We wanted the commuter allowances to be paid at one go but we were unable to get the government to budge because KUPPET had already accepted a three-phase deal”. KUPPET had already settled on an agreement which covered 16.2 billion shillings as commuter allowance. Hence, public secondary schools were eliminated from the closure.

As part of the deal, the union was absolved from the contempt of court charges filed by the Teachers Service Commission. Before the acquittal, the union’s Chairman Wilson Sossion and the Secretary General Nzili were facing a six-month sentence and/or a fine of 20 million shillings.

The Kenya Primary School Heads Association (KEPSHA) urged the government and the unions to focus on the nation’s students. Its Chairman Joseph Karuga stated, “The children who are facing exams this year, lost some time last year during another strike, they lost another 10 days during elections and now they have missed out on four weeks. That is a problem we cannot wish away”. He added, “These children are the people whose future we are talking about and if we continue interfering with it, the cost will be enormous”.

The government decided to hire 10,000 additional teachers demanded by the union to regulate the disorders in schools. Regardless of the government-ordered closure, the teachers will return to schools on the 18th, as directed by Mudzo Nzili.

Creative Commons LoveGlobalPartnership for Education on

E-Learning in Kenya: The Reality

NtugiGroup 55At the beginning of this year, 1.3 million Laptops will be distributed to school children in Kenya.

Requiring more than USD 600 million (53 billion Kenyan Shillings), this project is part of the Kenyan government’s ambition of “transforming the educational system to e-teaching and e-learning”.

Yet, the national budget disclosed in June shows far less and even insufficient allocation for sectors such as healthcare and police force compared to funding for e-learning, receiving only 34.7 billion shillings and 67 billion shillings respectively. As a country with extremely tight financial resources, Kenya’s investment to catch up with the rising trend is an adventurous decision.

The project serves as a vital part of Kenya’s national development plan, focusing on advancing digital services and building the “silicon Savannah.” The country already has one of the fastest internet speeds in Africa, yet it is still in-wrought with severe economic inequalities and dire poverty. About half of the population lives below the national poverty line and more than 15 million people live without access to safe water or sanitation.

Though many children could partake in Free Primary Education since 2003, about 1.2 million children of school age are out of school. This reality inevitably questions the grounds for the expensive project, specifically its logic and foreseen consequences of deepening inequity.

Surely, implementing technology into education can be beneficial, especially given the current global era. However, in the case of Kenya, e-learning is an excessive luxury, rather than a solution to societal problems. Kenyan children across the country are in need of adequate school infrastructure and more importantly, tens of thousands of trained teachers.  This unfortunate reality poses an inevitable question: Could the investment and resources poured into the project have been better spent?

While the project will enhance the exiting skills, capabilities, and knowledge for the beneficiaries of the project, those who cannot receive the laptops will remain underprivileged and disconnected. It seems like the project will be inadequate for addressing the urgent matters of inequality and limited access to education.

Creative Commons LoveNtugi Group on

Kenya’s Free Laptop Program Stirs Controversy

NtugiGroup 91Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced a new plan to distribute free laptops to first graders across the country. Despite his claims that the move will help bring Kenya into the digital age, many believe that the money could be better spent on feeding students and paying teachers.

The initial phase of President Kenyatta’s plan will see 400,000 laptops distributed to school children in January. Eventually, over 1.3 million laptops will be given away each year.

Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said that the program would “reduce the cost of buying and replacing textbooks, and improve access to information, communication and technology in schools.”

Critics of the plan, including many parents, say that the program is a political move, and misses the mark of what is really needed in Kenyan education.

Kenya is currently experiencing a teacher shortage, and over 200,000 public school teachers are on strike over salary issues.

According to Kenya National Association of Parents spokesperson Musau Ndunda, money from the laptop program could be better spent on building classrooms and enrolling more children in the national school-feeding program. He also noted that the laptops could be lost or stolen, as in a recent scandal where 70 million textbooks from a free primary education program disappeared.

Other education groups have stated that Kenyan schools need desks and textbooks more than laptops, and questioned how useful the program will be since many teachers and parents are unfamiliar with computers, and unable to help children learn to use them.

Despite the criticisms, Kenya’s cabinet has approved the plan. A government spokesperson declared that detractors do not “care about the future,” and said that the program would contribute to economic growth and create jobs.

He said that the Ministry of Education would train teachers on how to use the laptops, build computer storage facilities, and provide solar charging stations to enable laptop use in areas with no electricity.

The first stage of the project is expected to cost the government $174 million.

Creative Commons LoveNtugiGroup on