By Gift Briton

Although technology is critical in achieving inclusive and equitable quality education as well as promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, the wide digital divide, especially in developing nations, remains a major challenge.

In Kenya, the new competency-based curriculum (CBC) for primary and secondary schools requires all pupils from grade four onwards to have digital skills, including literacy in coding, Microsoft Excel and Word as well as basic knowledge of digital devices.

However, a survey conducted in schools across Machakos County by Kenya Connect (a non-governmental organization based in Machakos) found that pupils in rural public schools were not being taught the required digital skills.

Many of the teachers in these schools, according to the survey, were skipping digital skills topics in their classes because they lacked the required skills.

Even though the Government of Kenya in 2016 issued computers to several public schools across the country, the majority of these devices remain unused and kept in lockers.

This is due to the fact that many teachers lack the capacity to use these devices including having technophobia, negative attitude and poor or lack of infrastructure among others.

As such, to improve the quality of education, Kenya Connect partnered with 63 under-resourced primary and secondary schools in Machakos county to train teachers on these digital skills so that they can be able to train their students.

Speaking during an interview with Science Africa at the ongoing Kenya EDTECH Summit 2023, Monicah Kyalo from Kenya Connect noted: “We are trying to bridge the digital gap and break barriers in education in rural areas because you find that the kids who are in urban areas are more advantaged than their rural counterparts who do not have access internet and computer.”

According to her, the organization has so far trained over 600 teachers and has partnered with other organizations including Team4Tech and Raspberry Pi Foundation that have helped to provide computers used in the training, personnel, funding and other online materials.

She added: “In the CBC, teachers are required to train grade four, five and six pupils in digital literacy yet the majority of the teachers lack these digital skills such as coding and physical computing.”

Need for Standardization of Training

Despite numerous and significant interventions by several other organizations to empower and increase digital literacy in schools, the adoption of digital skills, especially among teachers, is still very low. The majority of Kenyan teachers remain unprepared and not ready to take up digital literacy classes.

Commenting, during a side event at the EDTECH Summit 2023, on what needs to be done to ensure that the majority of the teachers acquire the necessary skills, Nyagaki Gichia, Director-Team4Tech, said: “We need to explain to the teachers why this is important and also find what their needs are and align those training to their needs and the needs of the students.”

According to Gichia, there is a need for standardization and a systems approach model of training such that the training is not done in silos by different solution providers.

“Different solution providers are teaching these skills using different models. The is no uniformity in the training. So, a systems approach method would be better. The training should be rolled out as national practice and policy where different players only come in to strengthen. And there is also a need for a cultural shift and change of mindset among the teachers as far as digital skills are concerned,” she said.