E-learning project lives a false dream but at whose expense?

Tagabi Primary School Standard Seven pupils use learning digital devices (LDD) during their Social Studies class. [Nikko Tanui, Standard]

Students of Gathima Primary School have to brave dusty floors during dry seasons and when it rains leaking roofs to follow lessons. Sometimes, learners are forced to shift from one room to another to have some semblance of learning. The classrooms have no windows for ventilation and are congested, taking away excitement that must come with introduction of e-learning.

The young learners also stand the risk of being electrocuted. Cables recently used to connect electricity were left hanging on mud walled classrooms characterised by floors that are submerged in water.

The school received 34 tablets, two teacher digital devices, hard disk, projector, four extensions and a soft copy training manual. However, 10 of the tablets are not functional and teachers require refresher courses on e-learning for quality education.

No blackboard

During the rains, the learners do not use the tablets because they could slip from their hands and get damaged by the water on the classroom floor.

“The school is grateful it now has electricity connected because of digital learning. However, we are forced to monitor learners and especially during the rainy season because of poorly connected cables on the walls,” says Anthony Mwangi, the school head teacher.

“Pupils enjoy e-learning although it is often interrupted by rains. We also fear the tablets are accumulating too much dust and this may destroy them,” he adds.

With no blackboard to write on, desks too are limited, with eight learners sharing a single desk.

The school that has about 280 pupils does not have adequate sanitation facilities for learners, and a disease outbreak is highly possible; one of the pit latrines constructed by well-wishers has since filled up and threatens to collapse.

The seven teachers share four timber-walled toilets. “Our toilets, which were constructed by parents are filled up but we still use them because we do not have an alternative,” says Mwangi.

At Kenyatta Primary School, tablets are locked in the staff room with learners using traditional learning methods. 

The school received 96 tablets, two laptops for teacher’s guide and a projector in 2016.

However on October 13 last year, thieves broke into the store room and stole 56 tablets, two teachers’ laptops and a projector. The school has only since managed to recover 37 tablets.

The school’s head teacher, Dr Margaret Ogena says the matter was reported to Nakuru Central Police Station; OB 04/14/10/18.

The school also informed the Ministry of Education, the Teachers Service Commission and Learning Device Coordinator offices in Nakuru.

It however beats logic why the gadgets are yet to be recovered despite them having a tracking device.

The school received Sh20,000 to build a store for the tablets, and Dr Ogena observes that criminals might took advantage of the lack of a perimeter fence to gain entry into the school located at Afraha Stadium.

The government trained two teachers on e-learning, though there is lack of adequate capacity to handle it.

During introduction of e-learning, the head teacher observes that it was difficult for lower primary class pupils to grasp, and majority of beneficiaries were those in upper classes.

“There was excitement but pupils in lower classes were unable to use them because they did not understand how to handle them,” she says.

But tablets are not an immediate need for pupils, considering their classroom roofs are also leaking.

But now that they have the tablets thrust upon them, the school administration has to think of how to maintain the learning device. For instance, the gadgets demand an extra cost on electricity that currently stands at Sh1,500 weekly.

To equip the school’s 17 teachers with e-learning technology, the school has been holding team building, where teachers exchange knowledge.

“Introduction of e-learning was a brilliant idea, but we need more teachers trained on ICT to save on time. All learning material should also be included for quality academic standards,” says Dr Ogena. 

Competency-Based Curriculum

The e-learning programme was piloted in three schools in Nakuru County, namely St Mary’s, Malera and Keringet primary schools. St Mary’s Head Teacher Damaris Achieng says e-learning has made learning interesting. However, the Competency-Based Curriculum is not factored in e-learning - tablets are currently used for integration and educating learners on digital learning.

“Pupils get excited active even, when they use tablets but the main challenge is not having new curriculum factored,” says Ms Achieng. 

However, despite numerous issues raised regarding e-learning, County Director of Education Dr William Sugut says he is yet to receive complaints on the same.

Dr Sugut says all schools were issued with money to set up storage, and that education field officers are looking into the matter by visiting various schools to access the condition of learning equipment.

He says cases of insecurity in schools should involve stakeholders for amicable solution.

He says stolen items should be reported to security agencies and the Education Ministry for easy follow up.

“There are no complaints raised by teachers on usage of e-learning material and all is going smoothly,” says Dr Sugut.

Some schools have benefited from funds from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to enhance learning.

“Management should seek help from CDF where need be; it should involve the Ministry of Interior to prevent loss of learning material,” he says.

Optimistic, he adds that capacity building is ongoing and aims at equipping teachers with skills on how to handle the gadgets.