Technology

How techie seeks to bridge e-learning divide in schools

saleem

Recording of digital content at Saleem Academy, Meru County. PHOTO | POOL

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Summary

  • Amadou Cissoko piloted ‘the Homeschool Project’ at the Saleem Academy in Meru County seeking to fill the education inequality gap.
  • His aim is to provide affordable digital education to children from low income households.
  • They charge Sh500 weekly on content per student. So far, they have reached about 500 learners.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the education sector as schools countrywide remain partially open.

With students in Grade Four, Class Eight and Form Four currently in session, there are thousands still out of schools until January.

In March, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered all learning institutions to be closed amid rising cases of the virus. This was followed by a gradual resumption of studies on October 12.

Whereas rich families can afford to buy laptops and hire private tutors for their children, poor families are torn between buying food or paying for remote education.

This, therefore, brings to the fore the issue of education inequality in the country. It is this gap that Amadou Cissoko is seeking to fill. In April, he piloted ‘the Homeschool Project’ at the Saleem Academy in Meru County.

His aim is to provide affordable digital education to children from low income households.

"The system is done by recording teachers hired through the firm’s partner school that teaches approved syllabus as per the Ministry of Education and the Kenya institute of curriculum development (KICD) guidelines," Mr Cissoko says.

The digital content is distributed to schools where parents can access them on DVDs or USBs.

Later students can watch the contents on television sets. The beauty of this, Mr Cissoko notes, allows students to rewind for clearer understanding of the topic. They can also pause to write notes or when a teacher or parent is explaining something related to the topic.

“We send assignments to parents through WhatsApp before they later send them back for our teachers to correct them,” he says.

They are currently producing material for Class 8, Class 7 and Grade 3. But, they are planning to roll out for other classes “We are in the process of reaching out to schools to offer our technology and content after successfully piloting at Meru Saleem Academy,” he says.

They charge Sh500 weekly on content per student. So far, they have reached about 500 learners.

Saleem Academy Director Betty Mucheke says the pandemic has compelled the school to come up with innovative ways of delivering learning.

She says they are now looking at adopting hybrid learning that combines both formal (traditional classroom) and non-formal (remote access).

“In the past, education institutions were built largely for the generation at that time with no intuition of the digital age approaching and taking over and other unforeseen circumstances,” she says.

“We are however slowly receiving buy-in from parents since this is the only solution available. We took up one that we could relate with, which is the use of low digital solutions, the DVD’s and USB.”

Some of the benefits of e-learning include affordability, scalability as well as personalisation of studies.

“As much as we consider e-learning as the way to go, it is still not the most inclusive means for basic education. The lack of access to electricity, devices and internet for the majority of our populations, makes e-learning a ‘luxurious’ solution for many,” She says.

Mr Cissoko says they plan to digitise the entire Kenya syllabus for CBC and upper classes and make it available to students across the country on online and offline platforms.

“The Education ministry has been transmitting learning programmes through the KICD’s broadcast channels. Unfortunately, that serves only a small percentage as a survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics showed that the content transmitted through television or radio and online only reached about 40 percent of the learners,” he adds.

In early December, Mr Cissoko and his team are looking at launching a new product for Class 8 students, to help them better prepare for their exams. The constant changes in the school calendar due to the management of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the main challenge.

“This has made it difficult to collaborate with public schools and reach children who need the content the most,” he adds.

They are promoting offline virtual learning as a means to protect and control the children using the devices from threats such as cyber bullying, pornography, eyesight problems, lower backpains, anti-social behaviours and obesity.

Gladys, a student beneficiary from the platform indicates that the model has allowed her to continue with learning during the pandemic and looking beyond school closures, she plans to use the platform for remedial, accelerated learning and revision.