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Can digital education work in Samburu?

Heading North from Isiolo on the road to Ethiopia, you reach a small town called Archer’s Post: turn down a murram road for 30km, and you will find the Samburu village of Kiltamany. Not far from here, tourists come to see elephants, giraffes, lions and cheetahs in the savannah of Samburu National Reserve and Kalama Conservancy.

The Samburu people are known for their nomadic lifestyle, their bright, beaded necklaces, and keeping of cows, goats, sheep and camels.

But they also live in one of the least developed regions in Kenya. eLimu founder, Nivi Mukherjee and Francesca Folda (a student of Social Innovation Management at Amani Institute, Nairobi,) visited Kiltamany Primary School in May to find out how tablets can be used in an area with limited access to electricity and network, and with one of the lowest literacy and numeracy rates in the country.

Each time we go to a new school, we begin by giving teachers an introduction to android tablets – explaining the navigation and basic functions. And within a few hours in Samburu, just as in urban areas like Kawangware and Kibera, the teachers were confident enough to try the tablets with their students, and soon they too were happy finding their way around our revision app on their own. All our content, videos and songs are pre-loaded on the app, which means that even in remote areas, students can use eLimu without any airtime charges.

 

DSC_0800

Using tablets in Kiltamany Primary School

 

Taking tablets to a boma

We took one tablet to a boma where many women lived who had never been to school. The mothers were just as excited to have an opportunity to learn as the students:

“It was inspiring to see how Samburu women took to the tablets. We tried out some simple apps to teach ABC’s and basic maths lessons,” said Francesca Folda.

With the help of the elders, we were introduced to Amina Lengolos, a year 8 student, and Nimfa Lekalaile, a pre-school teacher, who help to organise and lead the lessons. They took classes in the boma, the students sat on the ground with the tablets and notebooks in their laps.

 

Kiltamany Women's Group

Kiltamany Women’s Group

“We realised that they understood immediately the educational and empowering possibilities of technology not just for their children, but for themselves as well,” said Nivi Mukherjee.

We left the tablet at the boma, which was recharged using the solar panels at the school. When Francesca visited the village in the following months, she found the women’s classes growing bigger each time. In a few weeks, twelve women had learned how to read and write their names. By August, thanks to a donation, the village received two more tablets, pens and exercises books.  

 

As the class grew, the boma became crowded. They asked the headmaster if they could use the primary school to study on Saturday mornings.

By the start of September, a total of 48 women had joined the class, and as well as reading and writing, they were learning maths too. During the week, the women would also do homework, protecting their exercise books from the humidity in the rainy season by keeping them in plastic bags.

 

Practising phonemes

Practising phonemes

Amina and Nimfa now use the eLimu Upper Primary Revision application as a teacher’s guide: they use our app as a basic framework to teach the primary school curriculum even to adults with low level literacy. They say our bite sized lessons and images and animations help keep everyone engaged.

 

Preschool teacher Nimfa Lekalaile volunteers every Saturday morning to lead Kiltamany Women's Group literacy lessons at the school

Kiltamany Women’s Group literacy lessons at the school on Saturday morning

What’s particularly inspiring is to see this peer-to-peer education happening organically and without any prompting. Much has been made of the lack of capacity for technology roll outs in Kenya. How can digital education succeed in an environment with minimal infrastructure, investment, training, and skilled staff? And yet there we were, in a village which faced all of these challenges – and more, and yet people were finding ways to charge tablets and to teach themselves without any support.

We will keep on visiting Kiltamany every few months to find out how they progress. If you would like to help us raise funds to distribute tablets to schools and the women’s group in Kiltamany, please click on the Donate page.

 

Kiltamany women's group practising writing

Kiltamany women’s group practising writing

 


 

Update late September:

In the middle of the teacher’s strike, we received this email from Elijah, the headmaster at Kiltamany.

Hey.

We are fine here in Kiltamany. I am left alone with classes 6, 7 and 8. If it were not for the Tablets, the life would be hard for me. I am able to teach all the subjects using the tablets as everything is well explained in the tablets.  We have also learnt Maths tricks eg multiplying numbers using lines, multiplying by 11 and numbers ending with 1 eg 21 times 31 = 651. If you need more explanation, I can do so.

Thanks regards,

Elijah Njogu. Hm Kiltamany.

Volunteer teacher Nimfa Lekalaile in class

Volunteer teacher Nimfa Lekalaile in class

 


 

Update October 

Francesca returned in October and saw the women’s class had now grown so big that they had started using a classroom at Kiltamany Primary School on Saturdays.  Watch the video to see the class learning phonetics:

 

 

Nimfa Lekalaile and Amina Lengolos, trying out tablet computers for the first time

 

Update December

Nivi and BRCK returned to Kiltamany School and donated two KioKits! Read Erik Hersman’s blog about their trip to try out the latest version of their wireless charging tablets here.

 

 

8 comments

  • Sarah Ndungi

    Wow!!

    December 24, 2015 Reply
  • Gichohi

    Very encouraging

    January 28, 2016 Reply
  • Mary Mumbua

    congratulation for the good work

    January 29, 2016 Reply
  • Robyn Flatt

    This is totally terrific and enormously exciting. You are transforming an entire community! Bravo!! And everyone in the photos looks engaged and very happy. What a beautiful project.

    February 18, 2016 Reply
  • Waswa Juliane

    In this digital era and the dynamic needs of society that is the way to go congratulations eLimu Kenya!

    March 11, 2016 Reply
  • peter irungu njau

    kuddos.keep up the excellent work

    April 12, 2016 Reply
  • Borja Artamendi

    Nice ! We are also involved in Global XPrize learning competition, our target area is Tanzania but anyway we can collaborate , what do you think?

    June 7, 2016 Reply
    • Sam Rich

      Sounds great Borja, we’ll send you an email.

      June 7, 2016 Reply

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