Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Technology - Kenya Plans to Plug in with 1.3 Million Laptops for Children: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Technology - Kenya Plans to Plug in with 1.3 Million Laptops for Children: News

Article excerpt

But 90 per cent of schools don't even have electricity, critics say.

In one of the most ambitious programmes of its kind in the developing world, Kenya has committed to providing 1.35 million laptops for children - one for every student starting primary school.

The investment in laptops amounts to Pounds 399 million over three years, according to Henry Rotich, national treasury cabinet secretary. The money is also expected to pay for computer labs for older students, training for teachers and digital resources.

But the plan is being opposed by teachers, who are in a prolonged industrial dispute over pay, and by parents, who say schools are unprepared and the targeted children are too young. Critics also point out that 90 per cent of schools do not yet have electricity.

The move comes as the nation seeks to create a "Silicon Savannah", an African version of Silicon Valley in the US. A new Pounds 9.1 billion city called Konza, about 40 miles (70km) south of Nairobi, will offer tax breaks to encourage companies to move in when it opens in 2030.

Kenya has already proven attractive to technology firms, with IBM last year choosing it as the location for its first African research lab. Google, Microsoft and Intel are also establishing regional headquarters there.

But parents say that much of the country is still too underdeveloped to make the best use of computers. "The idea is very wonderful but the target group is wrong in that the kids are very young to understand the benefit of the gadget," said Musau Ndunda, secretary general of the Kenyan National Association of Parents, which represents 4 million parents.

He told TES that 90 per cent of primary school teachers have no experience of information and communications technology (ICT) education and that 90 per cent of schools do not have electricity. Mr Ndunda also said that 95 per cent of state schools do not have adequate storage for the laptops. …

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