There is no doubting the power of information technology (IT) in accelerating learning. If well managed, IT can be a great equalizer; because a child in Turkana would have access to the same information as another in New York. IT also enables learning of all branches of knowledge. For primary and secondary school children, IT provides an important foundation, is motivating the job of the teacher much easier as pupils have the possibility of learning on their own. For the young, it is so addictive that it can keep many out of trouble.
Bright kids can also use the power of IT to provide their parents with useful information on farming, trading and other daily needs. So the Jubilee Government’s commitment to ensuring that children in primary schools are exposed to computers and the power they bring in learning is commendable.
But the process needs to be carefully managed if it has to have the most impact. We could ensure all our primary school kids have access to a computer without spending as much as the seventy billion we are told is needed to roll out the project. Instead of targeting only standard one pupils, we could build and equip one computer lab (to begin with ) for each of our primary schools.
The lab would be equipped with fifty desktops (or laptops) which would be networked to a teacher’s smart board. Computer classes would then be compulsory for all pupils who also have the opportunity to spend more time in the lab at nights and weekends. The computers would be much more secure and better maintained in a lab than if pupils were to carry them home.
It would be grossly unfair to have only standard one pupils with access to computers while denying those in other classes. It is inequitable and can cause tensions among pupils. In fact, the benefits of having this realized among pupils in the upper classes who would be better prepared for secondary education.
Moreover, the labs would also be available to teachers keen on upgrading their skills; after a few years most teachers in all public schools could be computer literate.
Nor does a pupil have to carry a computer to and from school every day to reap the most from information technology. In any case, if a kid has a laptop all the time, there is the most of the other learning activities. Let us not forget that children can only use computermost effectively if they have sufficient grounding in other subjects just like a calculator is most valuable to a student who has grasped basic mathematical concepts. Such a system would also be easier to mange; each constituency could have one maintenance centre located in a central place, which could also serve as a community digital library.
Those manning the centres along with two teachers for each primary school could receive the required training before the project is launched. Likewise, a relevant curriculum would be prepared. All these things could take up to a year to put in place so that the first phase of the project is launched in 2014.