Bridge the Gap

The eLearning Consortium in the North Rift

Nairobi (KE), May 2009 - (by Mathew Kituu) The eLearning Consortium is an offshoot of education initiatives of the SNV Netherlands Development Organization in Kenya. It is a group of private and public schools, teachers, individuals, ICT service providers, and NGOs who have congregated themselves around the issue of eLearning and use of ICT in schools and the community at large in the North Rift, Kenya.

The group realized that in today's world, all aspects of life are changing, with ICT taking a centre stage, especially in education. People are now able to access information through ICTs more easily than ever before. Most developing countries have been lagging behind in eLearning due to a lack of ICT facilities, which has been aggravated by the poor economic climate and un-sensitized communities and local governments, among other factors.

The thrust of the Consortium is to create an enabling environment that is likely to attract as many participants as possible from both the private and public sectors so that the eLearning initiative can flourish in Kenya and Africa as a whole. The initiative, which has become a Multi-Stakeholder Platform (MSP), is targeting 72,000 children in the North Rift area of Kenya and has attracted the attention of the multi-nationals with interests in the use of ICT for education.

The initiative started when Oracle's e-Schools Business Development Manager in conjunction with SNV Kenya made it possible for fifteen teachers and management staff from local private and public schools to attend the second international eLearning Africa conference in 2007 in Nairobi, Kenya. This conference allowed schools to interact directly with Oracle staff and other members of the wider eLearning Africa consortium of ICT companies. This conference inspired members of the consortium and enabled them to see the benefit and necessity of a multi-stakeholder approach.

The first priority was to ensure that teachers be trained in eLearning so as to integrate this with their regular curriculum work, since the success of the consortium would rely heavily on teacher ownership. So far, more than 200 teachers have been trained. Listed below are contributions from some of the participating members:

  • SNV is currently supporting the eLearning consortium to connect with other partners who have passion for quality education, which is being achieved through encouraging the integration of ICT into teaching and learning.
  • Oracle has supported one teacher from a girls' school to join a training programme in Johannesburg under the auspices of the 21st century e-schools. They have also developed school-management software that is currently being piloted in several schools.
  • Family Impact Africa has been offering training services to teachers in the integration of ICT into teaching and learning. Through Family Impact, the eLearning consortium has conducted training seminars that have impacted 270 teachers and changed the teaching methods of many of them. The trained teachers are currently developing digital content with assistance of the organization.
  • Safaricom is offering internet connectivity services (ISP) to over 300 schools in the North Rift Region with rates that are affordable to many schools. Recently, it offered free internet modems to over 100 school heads, and most of them are even able to download TSC forms that are available online using the modems.
  • Microsoft is partnering with the Ministry of Education to provide software - both operating systems and applications - to schools in Kenya. Microsoft has also been supporting members of the consortium through training. For instance, through ACWICT, they supported four consortium female teachers to attend ICT training on ICT integration into teaching and learning. They also facilitated a teacher from one of the consortium schools to attend the third eLearning conference in Ghana.
  • The Ministry of Education in Kenya has hailed the initiative and is gearing to partner with the consortium to roll out their EMIS (Education Management Information System) program in addition to developing the digital curriculum for Kenyan schools. Through the partnership, government has also granted a duty waiver on used imported computers for member schools.
  • Kificom Computers is a local ICT-support firm that provides technical support to schools. They have so far done capacity building in over 100 education officers from 22 districts on computer support in relation to EMIS (Education Management Information System), which is being implemented by the Ministry of Education. Kificom is currently assisting the 22 districts with technical support in installation and maintenance of ICT equipment.
  • Computer Aid UK has been facilitating distribution of donated computers from the UK to Kenyan schools. Over 250 computers have already gone to schools through this initiative.
  • Kenyan Banks - Several banks are offering easy loans to schools for the purchase of ICT equipment, e.g. Equity Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank.
  • Learnthings has donated CDs of customized digital content that is being piloted in several schools in the North Rift Kenya and is currently working with the consortium to train teachers in the development and use of digital content. Late last year, Learnthings trained several individuals in Kenya in digital-content development.

The experience that has been gained and areas that have benefitted from these efforts include:

  1. Long-term eLearning projects, due to participation by more than one stakeholder in one project.
  2. A variety of specialties represented by different stakeholders: hardware / software support (Kificom), teacher training (Family Impact Capacity Development, and linkage among stakeholders (SNV).
  3. Trust among stakeholders has been enhanced as they play different roles and complement one another instead of competing.
  4. Enhanced knowledge flow, as members come up with different ideas and approaches to implementing such ideas.
  5. Easy mobilization and the flow of resources fit for the education.

The eLearning consortium has managed to bridge the gap that exists between these different stakeholders. Many partners are now working together for a common purpose of empowering schools to use ICT to encourage teaching and learning. A number of students can now access learning materials through computers and use power projectors, digital cameras, and the Internet. Teachers are able to download teaching materials from the Internet as well as create their own resources. The consortium is also giving advice to schools, especially when it comes to the purchase of correctly priced, legitimate ICT equipment.

Plans for the near future:

  1. To influence the government to incorporate eLearning in education policies and allocate more resources to them.
  2. To mobilize resources for the acquisition of more hardware and software.
  3. To sensitize educational managers of schools in rural settings on benefits of integrating ICT into teaching and learning.
  4. To put more effort into facilitating capacity building among educational officers to take charge of spearheading eLearning initiatives in schools within their districts.
  5. To influence international organizations and ICT providers to support eLearning initiatives in Kenya.
  6. To enhance communication among the various stakeholders in education and the external world.
  7. To strengthen the government-designed EMIS (Education Management Information System) at the national, district, and school levels with more focus to making it web based.
  8. To bring more stakeholders on board by creating an attractive environment for them to participate.
  9. To train the eLearning users in better use of modern ICTs in enhancing the quality of education.
  10. To partner with KIE (Kenya Institute of Education) and other governmental / private bodies in creating digital content that is acceptable and supports quality delivery of education.

It is the belief of the consortium members that by joining hands with other like-minded organizations and partners, the dream of achieving quality education through the utilization of modern ICTs will be fully realized. This MSP approach will also ensure the sustainability and prolonged success of the initiatives.

Mr. Mathew Kituu is the Director of Kificom Computers

Kificom is an ICT consultancy and support firm and one of the pioneer members of the eLearning consortium.