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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.