Kenya is a country in East Africa with 26 million children, many of whom do not have the devices or internet access to partake in virtual learning. Schools have been closed for six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so children need to attend online classes to stay on track. The government is introducing a new digital learning model to 24,000 public schools so that virtual learning in Kenya is accessible to all children.
Internet for All
After Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru launched a digital learning program, Kenya’s government spent 15 billion KES so that schools can teach four subjects online. By using the funds, schools are building computer labs, distributing fiber optic cables, training teachers in digital learning and connecting remote areas to the Internet. Virtual learning in Kenya is only possible if every student has an internet connection and a device at home. Mucheru’s program will distribute digital learning devices that local universities will help develop. Most schools in remote areas of Kenya do not have power access. To combat this, Mucheru will implement solar power in these locations.
Many Kenyan students lacked internet access before their schools shut down, so the program has a learning curve. Luckily, public school children will learn how to use computers and the internet. This ensures they will acquire the same digital skills as children in private school.
The Bigger Picture: Worldwide Statistics
Two-thirds of all children under 18 (1.3 billion) do not have internet access at home, yet hundreds of millions of students must learn virtually. In developing countries, one in 20 children has an internet connection at home compared to nine in 10 children from developed countries. This creates a gap in global access to knowledge.
The digital divide worsens existing inequalities. As children from poor households are struggling to catch up with their peers, they are falling behind in school. Lack of internet access isolates children from the world and halts their education and computer-literacy journeys. According to ITU data, people struggle to compete in the modern economy with poor digital skills.
The Fight to Attend Online Class
During 2020, people broke social distancing to find internet access, thus risking their health. Students in China spent hours hiking to mountaintops in freezing temperatures to find a connection and attend online classes. Many developing countries use television to administer online lectures but rural households rarely have TVs. UNICEF recommends that countries include alternative learning sources like radios, homework packages and tablets. In 2019, UNICEF started Giga which aims to connect every school and its community to the internet. The program has succeeded in 800,000 schools in 30 countries.
Even when children have internet access at home, chores and work might take priority over their studies. Since there are not enough devices for everyone, girls receive encouragement to pursue other things such as early marriage and housework. Computer literacy in girls is rare. Until children resume in-person school, these problems will persist. However, brand new computer labs and internet access that Kenya’s government is supplying will be waiting for them upon return. For now, most children can log into online school because virtual learning in Kenya is finally a reality.
– Rebecca Pomerantz