12 Challenges Facing Computer Education in Kenyan Schools

Published on: Sep 12 2011 by Guest Writer

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While ICT continues to advance in western and Asian countries, African countries still experience a lag in its implementation, and that continues to widen the digital and knowledge divides. In a recent study by Kiptalam et.al (2010), observed that access to ICT facilities is a major challenge facing most African countries, with a ratio of one computer to 150 students against the ratio of 1:15 students in the developed countries.

Whereas results indicate that ICT has penetrated many sectors including banking, transportation, communications, and medical services, the Kenyan educational system seems to lag behind. Further, recent report by the National Council for Science and Technology (2010) indicated that computer use in Kenyan classrooms is still in its early phases, and concluded that the perceptions and experiences of teachers and administrators do play an important role in the use of computers in Kenyan classrooms.

I am Martin Mungai, a secondary school teacher in Kenya, but currently on study leave at Hokkaido University of Education in Japan. I see a dozen challenges facing implementation of computer education in Kenya. They are:

  1. Lack of qualified teachers to teach ICT in schools; The demand for ICT learning has been tremendous and the number of teachers who are trained to teach ICT cannot meet the demand. There are more students willing to be taught computing skills than there are teaches to transfer the skills.
  2. Lack of computers; Computers are still very expensive and despite spirited efforts by the government agencies, NGO, corporate organizations and individuals to donate computers to as many schools as possible, there still remains a big percentage of the schools unable to purchase computers for use by their pupils.
  3. Lack of electricity; Many schools are still not yet connected to electricity; Kenya being a developing country, the government has not been able to connect all parts of the country to the national electricity grid. Consequently those schools that fall under such areas are left handicapped and may not be able to offer computer studies.
  4. Computers are still expensive in Kenya, in a country with a GDP of $1600, majority of the individuals and schools cannot afford to buy a computer and consider it as a luxury item, more expensive than a TV. While 2nd hand computers cost as little as $150 and branded new computers being sold at $500 or higher.
  5. Broken down computers; while a good number of schools have benefited from donated used computers, they have not been adequately equipped with the same on maintenance and repair, hence its very common to see a schools computer lab full of broken down computers, some repairable and some not. This has actually been a major problem, and the government has now put strict measures on any person, NGO or corporate bodies willing to donate 2nd hand computers. (It is seen as a dumping ground); e-waste management.
  6. Burglary; the fact that computers are still very expensive in Kenya, makes them a target for thieves who usually have ready markets to another party at a much less figure. This has made many schools to incur extra expenses trying to burglar proof the computer rooms. This extra expense makes some schools shy away from purchasing computers for their students.
  7. Fear by the administration; there is still a strong perception especially by the older generation that computers require highly skilled personnel to operate them, while this may not be the case, some school administrators also fear that their students will be exposed to adult sites and other undesired sites, through the use of the internet. Some also fear the infection of viruses to their computers leading to data loss, while this may be true to some extent, proper education on the safe use of computers and help alleviate some of this fears.
  8. Fear by the teacher, the teacher may fear being rendered irrelevant by the introduction of computers in his/her class. The ‘feel’ that the teacher still remains an authority and a ‘know it all’ in class is something that most teachers cherish, and anything that makes them otherwise is deemed an enemy of the classroom.
  9. Lack of internet or slow connectivity; most schools are not able to connect to the world wide web, due to the high costs involved in the connectivity. On average, it may cost approximately $120 per month to connect to about 15 computers on a bandwidth of 128/64kbps. This is considered as very expensive for a very slow speed.
  10. Lack of initiative by the community leaders; the community leaders who are charged with looking at the interests of a given community do not see the need to purchase and subsequent installations of computers to their schools as a priority. They consider health care, provision of water and other amenities as more important than buying computers for their schools.
  11. Obsolete computers lower the morale of both the teacher and the student; it is very common to find some schools using very old computers running on win98 or win 95.
  12. Increased moral degradation – internet pornography, cyber bullying and other anti-social behaviors is a worrying emerging problem.

The dilemma which arises in providing educational technology stems from a lack of financial resources and a limited distributive capacity. In addition, many African countries have not been able to employ teachers, and provide resources to keep up with this demand. This brings about compromised quality of education. Further, many African governments face the predicament of educational expansion that corresponds with economic development. Despite the setbacks, access to education is a strong focus of most governments.

Kenya as has put in place an ICT policy that aims to improve the livelihoods of Kenyans by ensuring the availability of accessible, efficient, reliable and affordable ICT services. The national policy addresses several sections, among them includes; Information technology, Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Postal services. However, it is the section on information technology that sets out the objectives and strategies pertaining to ICT and education.

The relevant objective in this section states that government will encourage:

“…the use of ICT in schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions in the country so as to improve the quality of teaching and learning.”

ICT can play a significant role in equalizing opportunities for marginalized groups and communities. But the paradox is that for those groups that are unable to cross the technology divide, ICT is yet another means to further marginalize them. Education has a major role to play in resolving this problem. Thus, unless ICT becomes part of both the delivery and content of education, the disadvantage will deepen and development will suffer.

But the failure to use ICT is itself a result of the digital and knowledge divides that exist, and their causes are deeply embedded in the complex historical and socio-cultural context of the country. Fortunately, with the Vision 2030 goals, the Kenyan government has begun to implement strategies that will address these paradoxes.


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13 Comments to “12 Challenges Facing Computer Education in Kenyan Schools”

  1. Allan Kapten says:

    I guess another major challenge is lack of content for education. Most of our education material is yet to be digitized so as to enable students and teachers use computers and technology in general for learning purposes. Even in college, we all access libraries from foreign universities, because we lack content of our own.

    This is s great article and a challenge to various policy players, institutions and everyone concerned that we must take up the task to advance use of ICT in our education sector.

    The good thing is, we are moving there.

  2. Moses Owiny says:

    Kenya, is a neighboring country to Uganda where i come from and most of your insights are all spot-on and strongly compares to both countries.We still have a lot of challenges facing us despite a strong acknowledgements by governments to recognize the importance of Information and Communication Technologies as engines for growth.With the advent of numerous online technologies to improve learning and education systems; Governments, Corporate bodies, donors and society has to put in place mechanisms to ensure equitable distribution of ICT tools in terms of infrastructures, access, use and even control- a more robust approach needs to focus on rural areas to ensure equitable distribution, access , use and opportunities that ICT presents to all individuals, governments to sustainable national development.

    Moses Owiny
    CSP Fellow, Batavia, New York
    ICT 4dev,e-agric and gender & rural development

  3. Akume says:

    The challenges facing ICT penetration in kenya, is equally true with the Nigeria situation. The fact that Nigeria has put in place an ICT policy and make computer a core subject in senior secondary school exams (SSSE), It is still faced with those factors the teacher of computer science who is on study leave in Japan enumirated as those challenges that slow down ICT penetration in Kenya.

    I think this is true across many African countries. Unless Africa improve on infrastructures and human capacity development, the race to catch up with the western world and close the gap of digital divide would be a mirage. I am a teacher of computer in Nigeria.

  4. David says:

    Martin, your sentiments are true. I am a Kenyan and i understand you. ICT in education and education in ICT is still facing BIG challenges in Kenya and that’s why we have to do something in one way or another to address these challenges. We are currently working on a project that will address some of these challenges. The Website for Schools initiative aims to promote and improve the use of ICT in both primary and secondary schools in Kenya. Focusing in ICT in education and education in ICT, we have started by building websites for schools, conducting ICT awareness campaigns, Teacher training in ICT and many more projects to come. We believe technology can improve education in Africa. As a teacher, I thought this might be of interest to you and you may want to get involved. We also need you views and suggestions as we build our project from the ground.
    Thanks.

    David
    Kenya.

  5. Martin Mungai says:

    Thanks David, way to go. Am glad to hear that, there is a group of ICT teachers in Kenya, perhaps you may not have had the opportunity but they do have termly sessions where alot of this discussions take place.
    Here is the link, https://sites.google.com/site/lidsociety/home
    Am sure, you will benefit alot from interacting with this group. Am currently undertaking some studies on effects of increased internet connectivity on sec school students, the findings are already quite interesting though not very unique. I hope to be back in Kenya pretty soon and actively engage.

    Thanks
    Martin

  6. Steve says:

    Great article Martin, i have taught ICT in a public school for four years and your words are on point but i must that it takes patience especially to implement ICT in public schools.

  7. Anonymous says:

    a great article. i believe with the current initiatives going on the information gap will be narrowed although it might be slow due to the above mentioned challenges. i am an intern in an NGO which has a nice concept called classworks. if anyone is interested about it please contact me at kimaiyojoyce@yahoo.com.
    let us work together social and economic development through ict

  8. Anonymous says:

    Indeed much is being done in Kenya, we are a group of ict proffessionals and students who have taken up upon ourselves to teach the prisoners basif ict skills currently we are at second edition on the same program and i must say its a success. We have had positive results with the last class and a current one which is due to graduate early March.

  9. Ali james says:

    the government should do a lot because its embarrassing to find an undergraduate student illiterate of the use of computers.bye

  10. cheruiyot says:

    the other nagging problem is the disturbance by the viruses which distort any programme or make the computer fail to open to view programmes.

  11. Keith Magee says:

    Hi Martin,

    This is a very relevant and interesting article. All of the points you have specified here are valid arguments and ones that the Kenyan government are actively addressing. They are actively working with organisations such as GeSCI who are advising the Ministry on strageties for ICT in Education. The are also working in Teacher Training colleges with organizations such as Intel Education to access all pre-service primary and secondary school teachers and ensure that they are ICT literate prior to commencing their teaching careers. Though like yourself I believe that much more can be done.

    I am currently working for an NGO in Kenya that focuses on these issues directly. Our NGO is called Camara Kenya (www.kenya.camara.ie) and we focus on three main aspects, 1. providing low cost quality computers to schools 2. provide high quality training in basic ICT skills and Advance ICT skills to teachers and maintenance support for schools over a continued period and 3. provide a e-waste facility, that is to international standards, for all machines that have become obselete.

    We work with opensource software such as Ubuntu and OpenOffice and ensure that all our teachers are trained and higly competent in basic ICT skills such as wordprocessing, spreadsheets and presentations. We also provide training on the educational software (EdUbuntu) that we provide. We also provide free resources such as RACHEL and TESSA on all computers that give a large repository of free learning tools to the schools we work with.

    Daily we come across many obstacles and challenges, all of which you listed above, to make sure that we can access as many schools as possible either in urban or rural areas. While progress can sometimes seem painstaking and slow, I can see steps being made in the right direction. Like Allen said, we are moving there…

    Thank you for the link for LIDS. I will join and hope to engage in many discussions on this forum in the coming future.

    Regards

    Keith

  12. Jessica says:

    That is why the role of the non government organizations will take place. Let’s say that the common problem is the lack of the computers to be used by students. So those organizations either private or government will do have a solicitations and all the donations donated by the people will be given to those people who need help especially when it comes to education.

    Thanks,
    Jessica of
    http://www.lumina-fx.com/

  13. Amen K. Rahh says:

    Here they are with CC-Gate’s rebuttal.

    Lack of qualified teachers to teach ICT in schools; The demand for ICT learning has been tremendous and the number of teachers who are trained to teach ICT cannot meet the demand. There are more students willing to be taught computing skills than there are teaches to transfer the skills.

    **CC-GATE is designed to be used with the most basic of Computer Skills. Like anything, a student does get better the more he/she uses the computer. CC-GATE has an excellent customer service, and problems can be handled in several ways. ***

    Lack of computers; Computers are still very expensive and despite spirited efforts by the government agencies, NGO, corporate organizations and individuals to donate computers to as many schools as possible, there still remains a big percentage of the schools unable to purchase computers for use by their pupils.

    *** CC-Gate is a website, which means it does not require the ownership of the computer. Students can visit their local Cyber Cafes to take lessons at one shilling per minute. Indeed today most Kenyans have access to computers and internet. ***

    Lack of electricity; Many schools are still not yet connected to electricity; Kenya being a developing country, the government has not been able to connect all parts of the country to the national electricity grid.

    *** The vast majority of Kenya school kids have access to electricity as do most regions have access to Cellphones which have to be recharged regularly. CC-Gate can be accessed using a mobile phone. We are working on having mobile-easy lessons which can be taken on Generation 2 phones. At this time any CC-Gate lesson can viewed via android or iphones. ****

    Broken down computers; while a good number of schools have benefited from donated used computers, they have not been adequately equipped with the same on maintenance and repair, hence its very common to see a schools computer lab full of broken down computers, some repairable and some not. This has actually been a major problem, and the government has now put strict measures on any person, NGO or corporate bodies willing to donate 2nd hand computers. (It is seen as a dumping ground); e-waste management.

    *** Okay I have personally installed a computer lab at Kilifi Primary school. The problem isn’t the breaking down of computers, it is the actual uses and benefit to the students. If the computer isn’t directly related to their syllabus learning then it is of no real value to the school or the teachers. CC-Gate makes the computer a tool for learning, and not for entertaining and game playing ****

    Burglary; the fact that computers are still very expensive in Kenya, makes them a target for thieves who usually have ready markets to another party at a much less figure. This has made many schools to incur extra expenses trying to burglar proof the computer rooms. This extra expense makes some schools shy away from purchasing computers for their students.

    *** CC-Gate is a website. Each user has a username and password. Nothing to steel there. But the writer is acting like the computer is a target, but what about T.V.’s DVD’s, Stero systems, Gas Cookers, etc etc. People do no how to secure things of importance, and this is not just unique in Kenya ***

    Fear by the administration; there is still a strong perception especially by the older generation that computers require highly skilled personnel to operate them, while this may not be the case, some school administrators also fear that their students will be exposed to adult sites and other undesired sites, through the use of the internet. Some also fear the infection of viruses to their computers leading to data loss, while this may be true to some extent, proper education on the safe use of computers and help alleviate some of this fears.

    *** If not now it will be in the near future that these individuals will have to forgo their fears. This is not unique to the computer, it is a perception problem of generations, which history has shown, dies out in time and is replaced with new minds. ***

    Fear by the teacher, the teacher may fear being rendered irrelevant by the introduction of computers in his/her class. The ‘feel’ that the teacher still remains an authority and a ‘know it all’ in class is something that most teachers cherish, and anything that makes them otherwise is deemed an enemy of the classroom.

    *** Teachers are not laid off due to lack of work, and this is something way in the future. Here again, this is not unique to the computer. Jobs are rendered redundant all the time. The Industry simple adjusts itself. Teachers today are greatly over worked. CC-Gate’s research shows they are happy to off load some of the over crowding to computers.***

    Lack of internet or slow connectivity; most schools are not able to connect to the world wide web, due to the high costs involved in the connectivity. On average, it may cost approximately $120 per month to connect to about 15 computers on a bandwidth of 128/64kbps. This is considered as very expensive for a very slow speed.

    *** It is 2013, and already prices are half of what is quoted by Mr. Mungai. With the introduction of wireless routers with USB connections, a single phone modem can give 3G speed internet to a dozen computers. Today where ever your phone works, there is also Internet. Who knows where we will be in two more years?? ***

    Lack of initiative by the community leaders; the community leaders who are charged with looking at the interests of a given community do not see the need to purchase and subsequent installations of computers to their schools as a priority. They consider health care, provision of water and other amenities as more important than buying computers for their schools.

    *** This is like saying the old chief will never agree. Welll Kenya now has Sentors and Governors running communities. All do communicate with mobile phones, and all are required to have email addresses and websites. So welcome to Kenya 2013 ***

    Obsolete computers lower the morale of both the teacher and the student; it is very common to find some schools using very old computers running on win98 or win 95.
    Increased moral degradation – internet pornography, cyber bullying and other anti-social behaviors is a worrying emerging problem.

    *** I am in IT and I can assure you there are no more computers in service running win95. That is impossible. Today all computers are sold with Window 7 or 8 pre-installed. These latest operating systems can be downloaded for free on a trial basis. CC-Gate is capable of running on the latest as well as older versions of windows. ***

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