A consignment of 5,000 laptops is today expected to land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi from China for distribution to 370 public primary schools across the country.
The arrival of the gadgets comes after the Ministry of ICT completed the pilot phase of the Digital Literacy Programme for Class One pupils in public schools, which involved testing laptops and tablets for use as teaching aids.
The free laptops programme was a key campaign promise of the Jubilee government which has, however, delayed for years owing to procurement wrangles.
ICT secretary Joseph Mucheru said in an interview Thursday the arrival of the 5,000 gadgets marks the official commencement of the free laptops programme.
Another 20,000 devices are expected to arrive by air at the end of this month, followed by another batch that will arrive by sea on a weekly basis in the month of September.
The laptops are being supplied by two consortiums — one led by the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and the other by Moi University — both of which were contracted in early July.
Mr Mucheru said the government has relaxed the requirement that the laptops be assembled locally and is encouraging the institutions that won the tender to supply the devices to import more so as to have all the 1.2 million gadgets manufactured by December.
“While we still expect the consortiums that were awarded the tender to supply the devices to do local assembly, we are encouraging them to import more to have the devices manufactured by December,” Mr Mucheru said.
The decision to assemble the devices locally was billed by the government as one that would lead to creation of jobs and save the country milions of dollars in foreign exchange.
The government’s change of stance, with an eye on next year’s General Election, appears to suggest that it is more concerned by time than the jobs and forex savings.
“Tomorrow (today) we will be receiving 5,000 devices at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). The devices will be distributed to 370 schools. Another batch will be arriving by sea,” said Mr Mucheru.
The devices are preloaded with interactive digital learning content for pupils in Class One and Two in five subjects — Kiswahili, English, maths, science and social studies. The teachers’ laptops, servers and wireless router are additionally are pre-loaded with teacher training curricula on ICT integration, training manuals on ICT and a resource kit for teachers.
The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development KICD has also completed preparing interactive content for visually impaired pupils in the five subjects.
All Class One pupils in over 20, 000 public schools will be issued with laptops or tablets under the Sh13 billion Digital Literacy Programme by March next year.
The programme aims to integrate digital technologies in learning in public primary schools and prepare pupils for a world that is increasingly going digital.
The pilot phase began in April with 12,000 devices targeting 150 public primary schools in all the 47 counties.
Mombasa and Kwale counties were the first beneficiaries followed by Garissa, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Kisii, Uasin Gishu, Kakamega, Bungoma and Kajiado.
The implementation is divided in two phases. In Phase One, a batch of 600,000 devices will be delivered to 11,000 schools while the second batch will see the remaining 12,951 schools supplied by April 2017.
The schools are distributed evenly across the 47 counties with three schools picked and representing an urban, peri-urban and rural schools. An additional nine schools are allotted to Special Education Schools.
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in collaboration with the Industrialisation ministry have established the Nairobi Industrial and Technology Park project to enhance uptake of research and innovation. “This park will play a big role in the assembly of the digital devices and it will aim to create employment for 3,000 people,” says the ICT Authority.
The park has a capacity to assemble 750,000 devices per year. It is working in a consortium with the Argentina-based Positivo BGH which manufactures technology products.
Moi University plans to set up an assembly plant later this year.
Three hundred teachers received training during the April 2016 holidays, equipping them with practical skills on the use of the devices for teaching and learning purposes.
The teachers were taken through model class scenarios with class management software, content developed by the KICD and basic support and maintenance procedures.