The eager young faces watch as one of their fellow pupils stands in front of the large computer screen, which dominates the wall. The boy turns his attention to the maths problem. As his hands fly over the touchscreen, his schoolmates shout words of encouragement and suggestions as he works his way through the calculation.
Then, with a final flourish and to the cheers of his classmates, the boy smiles as the computer screen announces that the answer is ‘correct’!
A scene, which is, perhaps, common at elite schools in the US, UK or Japan is happening in Kenya Fluorspar Primary School in the remote Kerio Valley.
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The smart board project has transformed teaching process at the school. Launched by the mine management last year, it is such a success that it has become a pilot project for a foundation established by Fluorspar chairman Charles Field-Marsham and his wife, Rita.
The first smart board was installed in September and the school now has a total of five.
Headmistress Caroline Koskei said, as with most things new, there was a bit of apprehension at first, but gave way to enthusiasm as the pupils — and teachers — quickly ‘picked up the ropes’.
Access to information
“As the confidence grew so too did the realisation of the full scope of the technology, which made lessons more interesting and captivating. Combined with the Internet connection — and in conjunction with the school’s computer lab — the pupils and teachers have more access to information.
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“We’re still learning, but it has given the pupils more confidence,” she said.
The project has also featured a unique collaboration between the Kenya Fluorspar School and Braeburn Schools. A group of Braeburn teachers travelled to Kerio Valley to share the benefits of their wider knowledge of smart board technology, which has been in place at Braeburn for several years.
Each Braeburn teacher spent time in the classroom, getting a chance to review how the smart boards were being used and to offer advice on how they had dealt with various issues in the early days. This was followed by a session with all the teachers sharing their experiences with a view to honing the system and developing a full programme to ensure Fluorspar gets the maximum value from the technology.
The collaboration is a pilot project of the Kenya Learning Solutions Project, established by the Charles and Rita Field-Marsham Foundation, to help enrich learning at Kenyan public schools by sourcing books and other learning tools to support curriculum.
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Project co-ordinator Niccola Milnes explained: “For close to ten years Charles and Rita have committed themselves to supporting organisations that build capacity among the world’s future leaders. They have also funded the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Programme, a community-based scholarship and leadership development programme that has, in seven years, sent 84 students to elite US universities, such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton.
She added: “The Learning Solutions Project is a response to the need for a richer collection of literature in Kenyan schools. It ensures students, policymakers and educators have a voice in the books and technology that are selected and ultimately donated. Support is received and directed at the grassroots level.”