Badiliko, an African digital schools project, has vowed to improve access to technology and core infrastructure in schools by building capacity teaching and engaging policymakers to enable them to apply ICT in raising education standards.
This comes even as technology penetration remains low in Africa, especially in the education sector. The project, currently available in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria, is jointly funded to the tune of $2 million by co-sponsors Microsoft and the British Council.
Among other core objectives include establishing 80 digital hubs, 20 of which have already been put up in Kenya.
According to Emily Gumba, Badiliko Africa’sprogramme and business development manager, the programme’s main aim is to raise education standards by providing relevant technology and showing how to use this technology to access up-to-date information.
“The main aim of the project will look at three areas: access, build a policy dialogue and professional development. Under professional development our aim is to give teachers the necessary skills how to use technology with the hope of what they learn they will translate it into newer classroom teaching methods,” she said.
Gumba laments that in most cases students are way ahead of their teachers in computer literacy, with most teachers leaving computers to those teaching computer lessons.
“How do I use ICT to integrate teaching and learning? I don’t have to be an ICT teacher to know how to use a computer. Let me be a mathematics teacher who can use excel sheet to calculate my maths, how do I use PowerPoint to make my lessons more interesting?” she adds.
Where Internet and electricity is not available, the project provides solar power and long range Wi-Fi for connectivity to the various digital hubs in far-flung areas. The project is further providing solar-powered radio sets with over 21 million listeners to the programme, as of July 2011.
Gumba says there is currently higher enrolment and interest among students in areas where the project has been rolled out.
The programme, she adds, has further empowered students to read and revise with more material now available via the Internet.
The three-year programme, which ends in June this year, is also working with the Ministry of Education to ensure that the right technology is being delivered to schools and that Africa is not used as a dumping site for electronic waste.
She says African policymakers must also consider teachers in their policies, with several programmes existing on how to bridge the digital divide amongst the students but none for the teachers.
Already, Intel and World Vision have come on board, with a further 50 schools expected to be added to the project.
Following an agreement between the Kenyan government and Microsoft for the latter to provide broadband access through theMicrosoft 4Afrika Initiative, where the company will utilise TV white spaces, there is hope that more schools can benefit from the project.
Gumba said that talks are also ongoing with mobile network operator Airtel Kenya to provide connectivity over the next three years.
With the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) results that were released recently, she says it will prove that the project has added value to Kenyan education as the project coordinators put together a report that will evaluate the success of the programme.