6,000 primary schools picked for free laptop project


Kenya: The government has identified 6,000 primary schools that will pioneer the ambitious laptop-for-schools project just six months away.

The Jubilee government’s fl agship project will be implemented in three phases, the first of which is projected to cost Sh22 billion, according to the Ministry of Education documents seen by The Standard.

Education ministry offi cials estimate that about 425,000 pupils will be provided with the laptops starting in January, out of the 1.3 million children expected to join Standard One next year.

In his presentation to the House Committee on Education Science and Technology, Education secretary Jacob Kaimenyi said Sh75 billion will be required for a one-off implementation of the Jubilee government’s pledge to see all pupils joining schools get laptops.

However, given the cost implications, the ministry has proposed to roll out the project in three phases. According to the estimates tabled by Kaimenyi, each laptop will cost Sh28,000, a sum that may be out of reach of many parents in public schools whose children are covered by the project.

After phase one, over 7,000 schools will be targeted for the second and third phase, which will be done in the second and third year respectively.

The action plan does not provide details of the ministry’s plans to deal with those who do not receive the equipment.

The government has put the burden of security of the laptops on parents and learners meaning that they will bear the cost of replacing them incase of lose or damage.

Yesterday, parents led by the chairman Kenya National Parents and Teachers Association, Mr Nathan Barasa, opposed the idea of parents shouldering the replacement cost burden.

They also expressed fear that their children could be exposed to criminal gangs who may target them to steal the laptops.

Flood prone

“If the government cannot take full responsibility of the project then they should stop it, because parents are already burdened and we will mobilise them to reject the project should they be asked to pay for lost or damaged laptops,” said Barasa.

Schools may also be reluctant to offer storage facilities because of the large numbers of the laptops involved. Questions have also been raised about how students who live in poor conditions or in flood prone areas will secure the laptops from damage.

Last year, it was reported that the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (formerly KIE) had developed laptops that would cost as little as Sh900 but little has been heard of the initiative since.

Kaimenyi said a method had been developed to identify how each of the 20, 367 primary schools will get the project fully rolled out.

In his submission, Executive Brief on ICT Integration in Primary Schools, Kaimenyi said only 2,037 primary schools have electricity connections in the country. This translates to only 10 per cent of the total schools. 

Another 8,147 schools are near the main electricity supply while the remaining 10,184 schools are far from the main grid. These represent 40 and 50 per cent of the schools, respectively. He said the availability of electricity and nearness to the main grid was the basis used in deciding the schools selection criteria.

In every three schools with electricity connection, the ministry has selected one school close to the mains grid and another one that is far away from the grid.

With this formula, 6,275 schools will have the benefit to be the first beneficiaries of the ambitious Information and Communication Technology project. In the subsequent years, the ministry has said that it will select half of the remaining schools for second year and the rest for third year.

After identification of the schools, the actual preparation and implementation shall begin.

Kaimenyi has proposed that the ministry will require some Sh3 billion to install charging cabinets and refurbishment of laptops storage rooms.

With each laptop valued at Sh28,000, the ministry will have to set aside Sh11.8 billion to procure laptops for 424,748 pupils before next year.  “This further implies that we shall be procuring a similar or more numbers of laptops every other subsequent year for incoming standard one,” read the brief in part.

Each school will also get four new laptops, two projectors and a printer to be used by teachers. This has been estimated to cost Sh13.7 billion.

The ministry has also projected spending of some Sh77 million in the first phase of the project to train three teachers from each of the primary schools.

Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has already requested funds to train two teachers and the head teacher of the school in the first phase of implementation.

Open office

Commission secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni said the training would be done between August and December holidays. In his proposal to the ministry, Lengoiboni has however said that no amounts have been set aside for the same initiative.

Under the same budget, the ministry plans to train a core team they have called “Master Trainers on ICT Integration” who will cascade training to all the schools.

Some 50 groups of talented youths will be identified to develop content to be provided for each laptop installation including open office products. This has been projected to cost Sh50 million. This means that each group will be awarded Sh1 million.

And for schools that will be far away from the grid and therefore require solar power, the ministry has estimated that each solar panel will cost Sh200,000. This has been estimated to cost over Sh2 billion for the 10,184 schools.