Education PS questioned over the flopped laptop project

The multi-billion shilling laptops programme for schools came into sharp focus as MPs questioned the viability of the Jubilee government pet project.

The MPs also linked challenges of the competency-based curriculum (CBC) to the failed rollout of the laptops in schools, arguing that it would have supported the new curriculum. 

They also said parents would have participated effectively in their children’s homework if the digital literacy programme was well implemented.

It was revealed in a parliamentary committee that so far, the ministry has released one million laptops to various primary schools. But MPs questioned how the new curriculum would be implemented.

Education PS Julius Jwan appeared before the education committee on behalf of Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha.

He was answering Kirinyaga Central MP John Wambugu on the measures the ministry has put in place to bridge the digital literacy divide among learners. Wambugu also wanted to find out the steps the ministry has taken to ensure continuous training on digital literacy for all teachers.

“In my constituency, over half of the primary schools have no power or laptops as per the CBC syllabus. How are they expected to learn or do you think all schools are privileged?” he posed.

He also said not all parents and guardians are literate enough to help with school work. “Most parents in rural areas are illiterate yet you ask them to assist their children in homework. Is there a syllabus in this CBC for parents so that they also understand what they need to do?” he asked.

Nominated MP Wilson Sossion said the ministry needs to provide a proper analysis of CBC so that everyone can be well prepared.

“Coming up to with a new curriculum means a lot for the country. But if we are talking about learners under the CBC from grade one to grade five, that is about seven to eight million pupils, so in every learning lesson do you really think the one million laptops are sufficient?” Sossion asked.

But PS Jwan he said it would be misleading to say the ministry has not honoured its promise.

“There are always exemptions but indicating that we failed to supply laptops to schools probably may not be the correct interpretation. I want to confirm that there are schools in rural setups that are connected to and are using solar energy,” he told the committee.

The Sh24.6 billion laptop project was touted by the Jubilee administration for its 2013 manifesto as the answer to the missing piece of digital skills in Kenyan schools.

The initial promise was to issue all Class One pupils with laptops, but tablets were distributed instead due to cost implications.

The legislators also pushed for reforms on higher education loans, proposing that the age limit for applicants be struck off.

Homa Bay MP Peter Kaluma he said several learners have been denied an opportunity to join university for lack of national identity card or the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) pin number having not attained the age of 18.

“So many students have not yet taken their slots in university and it’s because they are underage. Not because they did not perform. Helb is denying students their right of education just because of age,” he said.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said: “You are using this as an excuse to keep students out. The whole idea of this loan is to make it easy for students to get to get to university but it’s starting to look like the loans are making it harder,” he said.

Helb CEO Charles Ringera however said budget constraint is the biggest hurdle in the sector. He said the portal is always open for the underage to apply once they are of age.

“We are now working towards attaching parents to sign on behalf of students yet to be of age,” said Ringera.

 Underage students from 2016-2020

 2016: 3,500 students

2017: 3,300 students

2018: 2,900 students

2019: 2,500 students

2020: 2,200 students

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