Kenya's Pledge to Provide Every First-year Student with a Laptop

    29 May, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

    Kenya's recently elected President Uhuru Kenyatta has promised free laptop computers to every first-year student in the Country Schools. But some people questioned whether Kenya is ready and whether the president's plan can really succeed.

    Provision of the computers is to begin early next year. First-year students at schools like the Muthaiga primary school outside Nairobi, currently learned the traditional way with chalkboards, textbooks, and memorization.

    Muthaiga's head teacher Bernadette Owino said the new technology could provide excellent chances for learning for her students.

    "The world is becoming a small village and you need to connect with the rest of the world, only if you're computer literate. And it will also give the children a chance as they progress and grow to be able to research and have more knowledge. I think it's a great idea if it works. It's beautiful. "

    Educators and students may be excited and pleased about the government's laptop program, but others say the country is not ready. Many teachers still are not able to use computers themselves, and a lot of schools are in poor condition, and do not have electric power.

    The post-primary teachers union says it supports the idea of giving computers to first-year students, but the union's Secretary General Akelo Misori said students and teachers must first made basic requirements.

    "If basic skills of math and reading are still a challenge in our primary schools, then it means, therefore, that the introduction of technology in schools through laptops may not be a viable component of our learning circumstances now."

    The laptop program was a major campaign promise of  Mr Kenyatta who won the election in March by a narrow vote. But the idea started at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi.

    Suleman Okech heads a team that is proposing ways to put the program into effect, the computers to be used operate on solar power.

    Suleman Okech said every new program has difficulties that have to be faced, he said his team's challenges include training teachers to manage school's getting computers. But he said he believes the teacher can do what is required.

    And he added that if the program goes ahead, its effects would extent far beyond the classroom. He said to produce half a million laptops by January, 12,000 people would have be to employed, but there are budget worries.

    The new government is still working on the country's budget and how to pay for the program. Providing laptop computers for all first-year school children in Kenya is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

    And that's the Education Report from VOA Learning English.