HIP HIP, HURRAY! Pupils from St Mary’s Primary Boarding School in Nakuru cheer Education ministry officials after they recieved tablets under the pilot Digital Literacy Programme. Headteacher Damaris Ochieng says pupils from private schools are seeking admission at the institution. Photo/Bernard Gitau
Excitement has rocked public schools that have received tablets under the Digital Literacy Programme, with the school managements grappling with high number of new pupils seeking admission.
Damaris Ochieng, the head teacher, St Mary’s Girls Primary Boarding School, one of the four schools in Nakuru that have benefited from the project, terms the experience overwhelming. Since the school received the tablets, parents mostly from private institutions have been streaming in, in a bid to secure admission for their children.
“We have received more than 10 formal requests from parents but we have no vacancy as the classes can accommodate only 120 pupils,” says Ochieng. Interestingly, some parents are promising to buy the tablets for their children. “They are determined to buy gadgets for their children but their proposal is not viable because the content in government gadget is not available in others in the market,” she says.
Ochieng says absenteeism has declined sharply since the arrival of the gadgets. Pupils and teachers from surrounding schools have also been visiting the institution to witness digital classes in session. Kirinyaga County Education Director, Elizabeth Karani, says at three primary schools which got the tablets in the county— Kabare Boarding, Gakoigo and Ngurubani— pupils have been rocked with excitement, reporting early for classes and with no absenteeism.
“But the number of parents seeking vacancies for the children is not different from past,” she says. Susan Waithera, a parent with a daughter in a private school in Nakuru, is under siege as the child insists on attending a school with “free laptops”. She wants the government to incorporate private schools in the project to end anxiety from pupils.
The main challenges, says Ochieng of St Mary’s, is that few teachers are trained on the use of the gadgets but those trained are helping their colleagues. “Integrated schools might get it difficult for pupils with special needs such as the deaf, blind and hence modification are required to help them,” suggests Ochieng.
Security is not a challenge for her as measures were put in place earlier; a strong room, perimeter wall, security guard and supportive parents. Nakuru County Director of Education Esther Muiru has welcomed the initiative and is calling upon the teachers to explore and research more in order to benefit the learners.
Muiru says the start of the digital school project was a milestone for the government and the education sector at large. Apart from St Mary’s, other digital schools in Nakuru are Mirera, Keringet and Ngala School for the Deaf. However, the tablets for Ngala School for the Deaf are yet to arrive due to special consideration and logistics issues.
The Education Officer challenged teachers trained to develop content for other classes in order to help them to get the feel and touch of the Digital Literacy programme. Lillian Mutunyi, one of the teachers at the school trained to handle the laptops, said it has eased their work and makes learning exciting. However, due to their large classes, they spend a lot of time connecting the gadgets to the main server.
The tablets are connected to the main teacher’s laptop, making supervision easy since any pupil who is not concentrating appears on the teacher’s laptop and can be locked out. “The pupils are catching up fast; most now operate with minimum supervision,” Mutunyi said. Mercy Wanjiri, Class One pupil at the institution thanks President Uhuru Kenyatta for the project, saying the gadgets are making them enjoy learning.