Although gaps in education affect both boys and girls in Kenya, a recent UNESCO report reveals that girls are the most affected. By the end of the decade only 23% of girls from poor households in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa completed primary education and, if these trends continue, boys from wealthy families will achieve universal primary completion in 2021, while disadvantaged girls will not catch up until 2086.
By Gilbert Nakweya (NAIROBI)
Identifying that “access is not the only crisis – poor quality is holding back learning even for those who make it to school,” UNESCO outlined a number of strategies to ensure all children receive a good quality education. However, despite efforts by governments and donors to implement these measures, barriers persist, which has led to the development of various projects that use ICT to further improve access to quality education for girls from rural and marginalised areas, such as the arid Northern Kenya and Eastern Kenya.
According to Francis Wanjala, a head teacher at Sifa Children’s Centre in Kawangware slums in Nairobi, the provision of ICT platforms could be the missing link to help girls in rural areas receive the education they deserve. “We need to invest more funds in infrastructure and capacity building,” Wanjala says. “This will help girls from remote areas and other neglected regions of the country access education and pursue their career goals.”
One recently-launched project that is expected to provide the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is Project iMlango. Derived from the Swahili word for door or portal, Project iMlango seeks to improve learning and educational outcomes for 25,675 marginalised girls across 195 primary schools in Kenya.
Through a strategic partnership between the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the private sector, the project is providing the necessary structure and tools to improve learning outcomes. “One million children in Kenya do not regularly attend school. Thousands of these pupils are girls, marginalised by poverty and distance from schools. Project iMlango will aim to improve the educational outcomes for 25,675 marginalised girls,” the project’s spokesperson says.
The project will deliver high speed Internet connectivity to schools; provision of tailored online educational content for maths, literacy and life skills; tuition and support for teachers to use ICT in their teaching; electronic attendance monitoring with a conditional payment to families to improve non-attendance and drop-out rates at school; and real-time project monitoring and measurement.
To achieve improved education and quality of life, the project also sets out to address the financial and cultural issues affecting girls that lead to reduced school attendance and drop-outs; this includes using electronic attendance monitoring and conditional payments to families. “Underpinned by insight that families play a critical role in girls accessing and remaining in education, a comprehensive programme has been developed encompassing key stakeholders – families, teachers, students, schools and local merchants,” notes the spokesperson.
At the programme’s core sits an Internet learning platform, accessed via high-speed satellite broadband connectivity, where partners provide students with interactive, individualised learning tools. However, one of the most compelling and unique aspects of the programme is the ability to measure and benchmark the project’s impact in real-time. Data includes daily attendance statistics at the whole school level (for over 100,000 children), as well as measuring access to the learning platform and the progress of an individual’s mathematics capability. The aim is to demonstrate how such an integrated approach can create a positive and lasting impact on marginalised girls and their communities.
Two months after the launch of the project, equipment has started to arrive and, according to an announcement by Camara Kenya – a volunteer organisation dedicated to educating the community in Africa through computer technology, the outlook is promising.
“Camara Kenya received the container to the hub this morning, the first of four containers earmarked for the iMlango project being rolled out this year to 195 schools across Kenya. Every time another container arrives the team get quicker at unloading. It took them just 90 minutes this time around to unload a 40-foot container of over 1,000 PC’s,” Camara’s Africa CEO, Philip McAllister said.
By the end of 2014, 95 schools are expected to be serviced, with the remaining 100 to be supplied with their equipment in early 2015.