At eLearning Africa 2006, Dr Speranza Ndege, Head of AVU Kenyatta University and Emily Masinjila, Head of INSET Unit at the Ministry of Education in Kenya are examining ICT Education in Kenya as a ‘tool’ that has yielded positive results in enhancing university education. eLearning in particular, is gaining popularity among educationalists because of its ability to reach out to working professionals who cannot get time off from their workstations to enroll in regular classes. Some of the challenges will be extrapolated and recommendations highlighted.
eLearning Africa: In your report you say that all Kenyan public universities and two private universities have introduced Distance Learning programmes. How many students are taking part?
Speranza Ndege: I am still verifying the actual numbers, but I would personally estimate that at the Kenyatta University, between 4000 – 5000, at Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology about 150, at the University of Nairobi about 6000 and at Egerton University about 200 students are involved in eLearning activities. At the Moi University enrollment will begin soon.
eLA: What are the main obstacles in the way of implementing ICT in university education, and how could they be removed?
Speranza Nedge: Universities have to meet the increased need for lifelong learning. They need to reduce the cost of education. Moreover they have to address gender equity and take education to the people. That also means to increase access to secondary and tertiary education. Problems are still the low initial capital investment and the weak ICT infrastructure in many areas, as well as generally low budgets for development and recurrent expenditure. ICT Infrastructure is inadequate and unreliable in the rural areas. Thus ICT readiness in rural areas and within some institutions is poor and is not ready to exploit external connectivity.
The small financial resources collide with the high costs of providing Distance Education. Here we need to evaluate the costs of various technology options to make informed choices.
A psychological problem still to overcome is the simplistic perception of Distance Education as ‘second best’. Also we suffer from low female participation in science subjects. There is a strong resistance to ICT by older generation and a need for attitudinal change.
To overcome these we need to raise awareness of the problems among all education stakeholders. ICT has to be integrated into teacher training and regulatory obstacles to the adoption of ICT technologies have to be removed. Local education content as well as the adoption, adaptation and delivery of curricula through the use of ICT can help to fill the gaps.
eLA: The Kenya National ICT Policy aspires to create “an e-enabled and knowledge-based society by the year of 2015”. Can you give some examples of how this policy is being implemented in other sectors?
Speranza Nedge: The National Policy is still awaiting enactment by parliament so that implementation can begin, but as we wait, a lot is happening in the area of ICT Education. For example, the National Policy will act as an umbrella for institutions, government ministries, and the private sector to develop their own ICT policies that will promote their individual ICT initiatives. The government has removed taxation on the import of computers and computer parts.
ICT policy is giving direction as to how ICTs can be implemented in various areas; e.g., there is what we call today an e-government. All ministries are expected to be exchanging information via the Internet. More Kenyan citizens are exposed to unlimited access to ICT Education. There is increased student enrollment in distant education programmes and a greater commitment of teachers and administrators to offering quality education online.
The government is also becoming increasingly committed to ICT development issues and will soon realize the importance of allocating more funds to strengthen ICTs in day-to-day operations. Other sectors are gradually adapting new ICTs and catching up with the rest. For instance, in government ministries, computers have increased and there is a greater use of the Internet. There are also more computerized systems in offices – government, parastatals, private companies, small-scale businesses, banks, churches, NGOs and tertiary institutions.
Faster communication is now taking place between individuals and among world governments. People are using mobile phones rather than land telephone lines. There is a greater usage of the Internet, TV, radio, mobile phones, video and teleconferencing, Voice over IP, and other ICTs than in the past. The government is reaching out to the rural areas to introduce rural electrification so that it can be possible to equip rural primary and secondary schools with computers and the Internet.
eLA: Are there any outstanding initiatives, such as to promote the use of ICT in schools or elsewhere in civil society, e.g. in NGOs, religious organizations, etc.
Speranza Nedge: Telcolm Kenya has opened up more than 400 internet cafes in the country – urban and rural areas and even in small markets where there is electricity. More investors are being attracted into the country, among them Computer Aid International, Schoolnet, Computer For Schools, Kenya, ISPs, and NEPAD, who have provided computers to secondary, primary and tertiary institutions to strengthen eLearning and other ICT education programmes. The country has seen more partners interested in funding ICT initiatives. More researchers are interested in studying and writing on ICT initiatives. Publications on ICTs will now increase.
eLA: How is the Kenyan National ICT Policy linked to other national development plans?
Speranza Nedge: ICT awareness is slowly developing and various government ministries have established ICT departments to advise on matters of ICT as well as computerize ministry systems to make information sharing easier.
eLA: How do you personally think ICT can help reach the UN Millennium Development goal of providing quality education for all?
Speranza Nedge: I think that governments should remove all forms of taxation on computers and other ICT equipment, such as Vsats, mobile phones TVs, etc., so that ordinary citizens can afford to buy the technology.
Through ICTs we could create a knowledge-sharing society and create awareness of the importance of using ICTs in our day-to-day affairs. We should develop more training programmes in ICT for citizens, making ICT Education a compulsory subject in all levels of education. In general, I would seek to enable more citizens, with an emphasis on women and youth as well as the physically challenged members of society, to get access to ICT education technologies. We also need robust rural electrification so that ICTs can be used in the rural areas as well. And we certainly need to demystify the use of computers and enable all small business enterprises, institutions and government employees to use the modern technologies.
eLA: Dear Dr Ndege, thank you very much for your time.