By Ashish Malhotra
In an era where technology is continually evolving, its deep impact extends across various sectors. Education stands out as one of its primary beneficiaries. This transformation not only affects the way education is delivered but also revolutionizes the content and materials presented to learners.
In this ever-evolving education landscape, technology emerges as a game-changer. Its integration into various facets of learning enhances the learning experience. Teachers can use computers in classrooms, create digital spaces for course materials, assignments, and remote communication with learners, all of which transform the educational landscape.
Technology provides opportunity to complement the Kenyan government’s commendable commitment to ensuring equal educational opportunities for all children. Initiatives like Operation Come to School – 2021, aimed at re-enrolling out-of-school children post-Covid-19, coupled with free primary education and the adoption of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC), have all significantly improved access. However, as highlighted in UNESCO’s 2023 report titled ‘Technology in Education’, many schools, including in Kenya, continue to face significant challenges such as insufficient infrastructure and limited learning resources.
This is the rationale behind Airtel Kenya’s collaboration with UNICEF that is demonstrating how technology can bridge educational gaps in an initiative that aims to connect more than one million learners across Africa to online educational resources. So far, Airtel has already connected over 30 schools in Kenya to high-speed internet and zero-rated platforms such as Elimika and the Kenyan Education Cloud, granting over 10,000 Kenyan children access to digital educational resources that are approved by the Ministry of Education. The initiative underscores the transformative potential of technology in education, not only by providing high-speed internet to schools but also by making digital resources accessible to thousands of students.
Additionally, high-speed internet, like the emerging 5G capabilities, further expands the horizons of educational possibilities. Real-time access to education materials and remote lessons can be provided to a vast number of students, even in the most remote areas. The digital revolution, sparked by these technologies, prevents the collapse of the education system during unforeseen disruptions, as seen during the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, technology offers interactive multimedia elements like videos, animations, simulations, and virtual reality, making learning visually appealing and enjoyable.
However, challenges still persist. The digital divide, evident in rural areas with limited internet access, must be addressed. According to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census Report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), rural internet access stood at 13.7% compared to urban internet access at 42.5%. This is largely attributed to the digital divide, brought about by limited access to technology. The government’s initiatives, such as the Kenya National Digital Master Plan (2022-2032), can play a crucial role in bridging this gap. Internet providers and other stakeholders also need to invest in infrastructure and promote affordability of internet.
Moreover, both teachers and students must acquire the digital literacy skills necessary for effective utilization of technology. Robust training and professional development programs are essential to ensure educators can seamlessly incorporate technology into their teaching methods.
Incorporating technology in education is no longer a choice but a necessity as we navigate the digital transformation of the 21st century.
As we wholeheartedly embrace this digital revolution, it is paramount that we remain vigilant in addressing challenges like the digital divide and the need for comprehensive teacher training. This will ensure that technology remains a valuable ally in our quest for accessible, engaging, and effective learning. Additionally, through these efforts, we not only prepare the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow but also empower them to thrive in an increasingly digital world.
(Ashish Malhotra is the MD, Airtel Kenya).