The government needs Sh61 billion to roll out online lessons for 10 million children in public schools.
The money is needed to install necessary Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure, including purchase of laptops for Grade Four to Grade Six learners and connecting internet to schools.
ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru told Senate Standing Committee on Education that connecting internet to schools requires another Sh15 billion.
The CS said the National Treasury slashed the Digital Literacy Programme (DLP) budget by 75 per cent, frustrating implementation of the same.
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“If we get the money we can be able to fast-track the process,” said Mr Mucheru.
Committee chair Alice Milgo faulted Treasury for slashing the budget, saying Covid-19 presented new challenges to education. “We must prepare ahead of time so that when schools open in January we are not caught off guard,” said Dr Milgo.
ICT Principal Secretary Jerome Ochieng’ said the National Treasury dealt a major blow to the programme.
“With enough resources we can roll out learning devices within a single financial year,” said Mr Ochieng’.
Finding the right model
It emerged that huge budgetary cuts this financial year, implementation of the new curriculum and the Covid-19 crisis further complicated adoption of digital learning that was planned in two phases.
Mr Mucheru explained that finding the right model to be adopted for the second phase of DLP had been frustrated by the implementation of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) and the emergence of coronavirus.
He noted that implementation of Phase II, which targets the advanced learners, was now at the pilot stage dubbed Proof of Concept.
The consortium of Moi University and JP SA Couto was picked to implement the digital learning programme in 26 counties. And the consortium of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Positivo BGH was picked to implement the project covering 21 counties.
“There are 470 schools targeted for piloting - 10 schools per county- and acquisition and assembling of devices is expected to start from September to December, to be ready for distribution to schools in January,” said Mucheru.
The CS said the earliest majority of children in upper classes in public schools can get laptops connected to the internet to roll out online lessons is July next year.
Plans to renovate 8,000 schools per year for the next three years to cover a total of 24,000 schools have started.
The Ministry of Education also plans to renovate each school to meet the requirements of CBC, lab/learning environment.
“ICT Authority, is also in the process of acquiring additional devices for the remaining schools, as well as devices for Grades Four to Grade Six and more teacher devices,” said Mucheru.
Only 1,902 new schools are yet to receive devices due to budgetary constraints.
Under the first phase, the government has already paid Sh30 billion to acquire 1,168,798 tablets for children in Grade One to Grade Three across 21,637 public primary schools.
More than 300,000 primary school teachers have been trained in ICT integration, and nearly all schools connected to electricity. Mucheru said ICT Authority had developed a Schoolnet programme to connect schools to the internet.
“This is in addition to the National ICT Infrastructure Masterplan meant to guide the deployment of broadband connectivity across the country,” said the CS.
He said more than 1,000 schools – one per ward – had been identified under Phase One of Schoolnet connectivity project being implemented by UNICEF. The project is expected to start in September to June 2021.