Last year at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, the Government of Kenya and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a collaborative project focused on improving education in up to 60 primary and secondary schools in Kenya. This was an incredible announcement for a number of reasons, including the fact that students and teachers in that region would now finally have access to relevant and engaging education technology and content. The last year has shown progress towards this commitment on a number of fronts, and we are nearing the beginning of implementation.
On a personal level, I’ve been excited about this project because of my life-long connection to Kenya. I lived there for six years growing up and experienced the country’s challenges with education firsthand. It’s a country with a deep and rich culture, full of amazing people who have a thirst for learning. But the resource limitations in the country are vast; many schools have more basic needs than technology – clean water, sanitation, basic supplies and well-trained teachers.
Despite this, an increasing number of schools are ready to start integrating technology into their curricula and pedagogy, and in those schools we see the opportunity of this commitment. The technology and skills training that come with this commitment gives teachers the training they need to appropriately use technology in the classroom and provides hope for kids who want to learn but didn’t previously have the best means to do so.
Through this project, up to 60 Kenyan schools will receive:
- Computers for student and teacher use
- Training for approximately 7,000 teachers to effectively integrate technology in the classroom
- Training of technical support staff at each school
- Access to digital educational content
In addition, Microsoft and Intel will open a School Technology Innovation Center at the Kenya Institute of Technology in Nairobi, the main teacher training center for the Ministry of Education. At the Center, teachers from across Kenya will learn how to effectively use technology in their classrooms, and the Ministry will conduct research on innovative emerging technology solutions. The Center will serve as a repository and showcase for best-known methods of teaching, learning and educational technology in the region.
President Mwai Kibaki visits the School Technology Innovation Center to kick off the construction project in March 30, 2010.
Over the course of the next three years, the project is expected to directly benefit an estimated 39,000 students and 7,000 teachers through improved educational infrastructure and training.
In my role I get the opportunity to meet teachers and school leaders from around the world. One thing I’ve learned is that teachers and students have the same needs and questions when it comes to education, despite geographic and cultural differences. ICT gives teachers and school leaders the ability to connect with one another to share successes, address challenges and help each other. In my opinion, ICT is one of the tools that can equalize students across social and economic and geographic boundaries. That’s why I’m excited to have so many teachers in Kenya connected with their peers in the country, and around the world.
The synergies from sharing and collaborating are unmatched and thanks to technology, are free from the bounds of things like oceans and time zones. I encourage parents of students, teachers and all kinds of educators to connect with one another anytime they can. Tools like the Partners in Learning Network (LINK to previous UP blog post) for example is a great resource for connecting and sharing lesson plans, educational content and helpful tips from teachers and schools all over the world.
There are a lot of great opportunities and positive changes being made in education right now. To get more information on this project, how to get involved and ways you can contribute, keep an eye on this blog and the Partners in Learning Network.
James Bernard is Worldwide Director for Partners in Learning at Microsoft