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Official sees role for polys in laptops plan

A child uses her father’s laptop in Malindi. FILE
A child uses her father’s laptop in Malindi. Plan to introduce laptops for Class One pupils has been the subject of heated debate. FILE  NATION MEDIA GROUP

Laptops for schools may be assembled by technical training institutes if a proposal by a higher education official sees the light of day.

Mr Owate Ombayi, the director of technical education, says the institutes have the capacity to be a core part of the proposed laptops policy. Mr Ombayi said these training centres have cheap labour if students are allowed to assemble the machines as part of their study projects.

“Technical training institutes are the best placed to deal with President Uhuru’s laptop mission. With space and basic manpower that consists of lecturers, students and support from industry people, we can assemble those computers,” said Mr Ombayi during a workshop for TTI principals and heads of department at the Mombasa Beach hotel.

He added: “I see a possibility of saving something like 40 per cent because labour and space is expensive when one assembles the parts outside.”
He added that there are well-equipped workshops, which would reduce the project costs by up to 40 per cent.

The government, the official said, should help the polytechnics in purchasing, introducing, and maintaining the machines that the Jubilee government says will propel the economy into the digital revolution.

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Mr Ombayi said even though technical institutes may not make the processors and hard disks because they require better technology, they can assemble parts when the machines are imported as knockdown kits.

Plan to introduce laptops for school pupils from Class One has been the subject of heated debate where experts and teachers have taken a cautionary tone, calling for a review.

Mr Ombayi noted that the TTIs would “cherish” participating in the programme with plans to introduce a competency-based curriculum at technical schools.

He added that TTIs will also provide cheap maintenance costs of the machines as  their rates will be lower as well as provide job opportunities to Kenyans.

Experts have estimated that the government plan to introduce laptops to schools is likely to cost taxpayers up to Sh200 billion.

In the structure of his government, President Uhuru has created ministries of Information, Communication and Technology and that of Industrialisation and Enterprises, setting the stage for a deliberate attempt to nurture IT and entrepreneurship.

When he addressed Parliament last week, he said every county would have a technical institute at a time many such colleges have been turned into universities.

Housing Finance Foundation executive director Winnie Kathurima told the Mombasa meeting that institutes should use the planned laptop project as an opportunity to make TTIs pillars of Vision 2030.

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