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ICT Ministry to launch Schoolnet Programme in schools

The Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs is set to launch the Schoolnet Programme project, that will see the government connect  over 43,000 public and private schools to internet services across the country.

The Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) for ICT and Broadcasting Maureen Mbaka said the ministry through the ICT Authority has already identified over 1,000 schools for the Phase 1 Schoolnet connectivity project that is being implemented by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

From left; Dr. Sara Ruto, Chief Administrative Secretary Ministry of Education, Dr. Katherine Getao, Chief Executive Officer ICT Authority and Maureen Mbaka, Chief Administrative Secretary ICT and Broadcasting have a hearty chat at the sidelines of the Generation Unlimited Kenya Stakeholders Consultative Forum today at the Kenyatta International Conference Center. Photos by Wickliff Ananda

Mbaka said the project that will be implemented in four levels will benefit schools within a radius of 40 kilometres through wireless radio links from CCP to National Optic Fibre Backbone (NOFBI) sites, will connect nearby schools to the current NOFBI projects which are not more than 3 kilometres from the current NOFBI network.

Other beneficiaries are remote schools which are far from the NOFBI network but are near the service providers’ site or cable network, all schools will also get a minimum of 10MBPS to enable effective download and access to learning materials.

The CAS was speaking today during the Generation Unlimited Stakeholder forum on connecting every school and learner to the internet and scaling-up online/remote learning, skills and livelihood platforms held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi.

The Ministry of ICT, through the ICT Authority is developing a device adaptable for home schooling in the Kenyan context which is being undertaken by public universities and Kenyan innovators using existing innovation and incubation centres.

She announced that the ministry of ICT has also established an e-learning portal to facilitate teachers conducting lessons remotely to harmonize the use of Digital Literacy programme devices in facilitating learning from home.

“We are collaborating with other agencies among them Communications Authority, Ministry of Education and the private sector partners to explore ways of deploying technology to facilitate teaching and learning for pupils while at home,” said Mbaka.

The CAS disclosed that the Communications Authority in collaboration with stakeholders have proposed for a homeschooling policy that will guide learners on how to use technology devices at home, and added that the ministry is also engaging telcos to provide zero rated content and white list e-learning materials.

Mbaka said the ICT Ministry has been putting in place ICT infrastructure across the country and initiating various programs among them the Ajira Digital program whose aim is to enable the youth benefit from online work, as well as bridge the gap between skills demand and unemployment among the youth.

“Online work opportunities that include digital marketing  and search engine optimization provides income to an estimated 282,000 people while both data entry and article writing have over 500,000 people engaged,” she revealed, and added that the country’s  youth are also earning a living from academic, scientific writing, transcription and virtual assistants online jobs.

She said in a bid to meet the urgent need for expanded education, training and employment opportunities for young people aged 10 to 24, the ICT ministry launched the Digital Literacy program to entrench ICTs in teaching, learning and equipping learners with the 21st century learning skills.

“To date, 21,638 public primary schools of the contracted 21,729 schools under DLP Phase one, have been supplied with 1,169,000 devices while partial installations of 1,304 new schools are ongoing under phase 1,” announced the CAS.

A total of 218,253 teachers have received training on the Competency Based Curriculum, at least 331,000 teachers have been trained on ICT integration and device utilization, a total of 19,042 public primary schools have been connected to power by national grid while 3,239 public primary schools have been connected to power by solar.

Speaking at the event, the CAS Ministry of Education Dr. Sara Ruto commended the Ministry of ICT for incorporating digital literacy in schools and enhancing digital connectivity.

“There are a lot of opportunities brought about by technology and it is important to equip our learners with the necessary skills to navigate in this current age of knowledge and information,” said Ruto.

She disclosed that the Teachers Service Commission offers mandatory training to teachers while the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) through Elimika Online Training offers voluntary ICT which has already registered 15,000 teachers for the program.

“There is growth in the way teachers are thinking about ICT as many have embraced the DLP programme and considered teaching and learning through ICT as a platform,” stated Ruto.

The CAS further stated that the ministry has established Kenya Education Cloud where appropriate and approved content is available for all learners including those with disabilities.

By Brightus Grace and Moffin Opilio

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