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Tired of the Library? Try E-limu

By David Odongo | September 9th 2012

By David Odongo

During holidays or, say, when teachers are on strike and children are home, what are the kid reading?

Most likely for the middle income and well to do families, they are fighting for the control of the TV remote control or for their parents’ mobile phones to access games and social media platforms.

Changing lifestyle, lack of playgrounds in urban areas coupled with busy parents have conspired to deny children valuable family time through which they could read together, go through homework and share what would pass for fireside stories.

With a declining reading culture, a new idea is putting up user-friendly computer infrastructure that would woo children back to the books.

Pilot project

The pilot project is rolling out an IT platform that would see primary school children in Nairobi read their books on tablets.

“The E-limu tablet has a simple design and includes features such as 3-D animations to help students understand complex ideas, games to strengthen cognitive thinking, quizzes and access to online Question & Answer forums with teachers,” says Moses Sumba, the head teacher of Mathare Valley Primary School.

This is intended to boost their engagement in learning and promote responsible citizenship for sustainable development through education in environmental conservation, applied science, agriculture and human rights. The tablet however has no browser to prevent misuse of Internet connectivity.

In a joint partnership between Moran Publishers and an IT expert, Nivi Mukherjee, the project is being piloted in Mathare Valley Primary School within the expansive Mathare slums. It is part of a pilot project where pupils have all the KIE approved textbooks and past exam papers online and can learn and revise for exams by logging on to www.e-limu.org.

The school has been equipped with several tablet computers where pupils improve their test scores and IT literacy.

Mr Sumba says the E-limu tablet has textbooks and revision content of all six Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination subject areas. “It is a very innovative way of teaching. It is exciting and pupils just want the classes to go on and on,” says Sumba.

Apart from Mathare Valley Primary, the project, which has been piloted for the past few months, was also introduced to Elimu Academy and Amaf Academy located in Kawangware.

“Working with the tablets has actually increased the pupils’ interest in some subjects and it has made it very easy for them to grasp concepts,” Sumba adds. He says due to lack of more tablets, the project is only available to class eight pupils. “If the project got more funding, it would be easier to provide tablets and any other learning equipment to the children,” says Sumba.

The E-limu textbooks and learning materials are sponsored by Moran Publishers. “All the digital books on the E-limu platform are approved by KIE and it was a small way Moran can encourage IT literacy in the country,” said Moran Publishers General Manager, Mary Maina.

Newton Sifuna, a class eight pupil marvels at the E-Limu concept. The 14-year-old pupil says he had never interacted with computers until he saw the tablet. “It opened my eyes and it has made subjects like sciences, which I didn’t like, very easy,” says Sifuna. “Even when I am not in school, I can confidently go to a cyber and surf the net for topics that interest me,” add Sifuna. Nivi, founder of E-limu says learning is most effective when it is dynamic, captivating and intriguing for children.

Fun and creativity

“The aspects of fun, creativity and play were completely ignored when the British left us with our current educational philosophy. E-limu is an interactive, engaging and fun application for children in the Kenyan Primary School education system to learn and revise for their exams,” says the social entrepreneur, technophile and community volunteer.

She says the inspirations to start E-limu came from the fact that she could combine her passions for education and technology and make a difference in a child’s life.

“When I see the state of our public education system, I see very sad and bored children! Children are innately fascinated by the world around them. Our education system kills the spirit of curiosity in our children,” Nivi says.

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