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Elusive dream: Tablets gather dust in stores as project stalls

EDUCATION
By Standard Team | March 3rd 2019
Pupils at Akingli Primary School in Kisumu West go through a digital literacy lesson. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Poor training, constrained access to programme administrators, maintenance of laptops as well as poor power supply and internet connectivity are among challenges dogging the digital literacy programme in Nyanza.

This has affected syllabus coverage in most schools the Sunday Standard team visited.

Teachers across the region cited poor training as a major setback in implementation of the programme. They claimed they were taken through a crush course and many were unable to teach using the gadgets.

“We received the tablets but we are not using them yet in class because we are not very conversant with the technology,” said a teacher at Usenge Primary School in Siaya County. 

In four of the schools we visited in Kisii, Nyamira, Homa Bay, Siaya and Kisumu, one teacher was teaching nearly all subjects in Class One to Three. Mathematics was taught manually in most schools where poor training was cited.

Lack of proper infrastructure, including storage rooms was also cited as a challenge and in some schools, the laptops were stolen. Some schools take the gadgets to chiefs camps and police stations for safe keeping.

The schools also decried disconnect with experts charged with maintenance of the programme. In many schools, teachers’ laptops and the tablets have been rendered useless after the software ran out of date.

Schools claimed efforts to get administrators to update basic software such as word and excel was a challenge. The administrators reserve the rights to change software. The administrators mandated to man each sub county reportedly take long to attend to schools.

Although Education officials claimed the administrators are supposed to be known to school heads, reports from schools were different.

“We were given contacts but whenever we call them, they say they will come but never do,” the head of Akingli Primary School in Kisumu West said.

Delays by the Government to pay for power supply and frequent outages as well as poor internet connectivity was also a challenge.  

“It seems this tablet project will not succeed. We’ve resorted to normal teaching as the tablets are not effective,” said a teacher in Siaya.

“Some of us have given up using them and those that use them are still struggling to master the new gadgets,” said a teacher on Mageta Island where the laptops are gathering dust in stores more than two years after they were issued.

Francis Odembo, the head teacher of Mitundu Primary School, says they are not able to use the laptops due to lack of power and adequate training. “Our pupils have not used the laptops because teachers who are supposed to train them were only trained for one day using only one laptop,” he said.

Buyonge Primary School pupils in Kisii County received 67 laptops for Class One pupils in a ceremony presided over by Principal Secretary in the Office of the President Josephtah Mukobe in October 2016.

Broken down

The pupils who got the laptops at the time are currently in Class Four with their teacher Jacob Nyamiaka saying they have enjoyed the usage and would like the programme to continue for more pupils to benefit.

Nyamiaka said about 10 tablets have broken down.

“The major challenge is that we do not have a specific time set in the school timetable for computer lessons, we also need more tablets so that pupils in other classes can also use them for learning,” said Nyamiaka.

The school deputy headteacher David Onchera said at one time they went without power after a transformer malfunctioned. Mr Onchera urged the government to consider supplying desktops which can be used by teachers and pupils since the tablets are for learners in the lower classes.

“We also do not have internet connection to be used for the tablets which do not accept an external modem and instead ask for some strange passwords which we do not have,” he said.

At Getembe Primary in Kisii Central where the programme was rolled out in 2016, pupils have already grasped the concept.

The school head teacher Joel Osir said they were issued with 45 laptops and ten have broken down.

In Nyamira, an Education Officer who responded on behalf of Education Director Anyang Ojumathe, said the digital literacy program stalled a few months after take off.

[Reports by Dalton Nyabundi, Eric Abuga, James Omoro and Isaiah Gwengi]

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