Friday, 17 October 2014

Slum schoolgirls living digital dream.Drive Hot News

A Form One class at Kibera Girls Soccer Secondary School in Nairobi on Thursday. 

On a hot afternoon in the Kibera slums in Nairobi, a Form One maths lesson is under way at Kibera Girls Soccer Secondary School. Their teacher, Ms Dhalifa Hassan, writes a formula on the white board and asks one of the students to read it aloud.
Using practical examples, she explains how the formula can be applied, before asking the class to open the Secondary Mathematics Book One and go to the chapter on volume and capacity.
A few seconds later, all the students have found the chapter and the lesson continues. No shuffling of paper is heard or students seen craning their necks to share a textbook.
Although the government has yet to fulfil its promise of delivering laptops to Standard One pupils, this school has already gone digital.
The school has a cheaper and more efficient option — the e-reader. Everyone in the class of 40 has one, so do the rest of the students and teachers.
The hand-held device, which looks like a tablet, is specially designed for reading electronic books.
Since the introduction of the e-reader at this small school of 130 students last year, both students and teachers say learning has become simplified and interesting.
Ms Hassan says the lessons have become more interactive and cheaper for the students, who, cannot afford textbooks.
“In a classroom, finding information on an e-reader is very fast because you don’t flip pages. You just type what you want to find out and the device searches it for you in a matter of seconds,” she says.
“Besides the over 3,000 books that a student can download at a cost of Sh1 each (Sh90) from, the devices are connected to a 3G network, meaning a student can even search for something in Google, thus enhancing their learning experience,” she adds.
The e-reader’s memory can hold up to 3,000 books downloaded from the Iinternet. This means students advancing from one class to another do not need to delete the books they have.
Traditionally, a student moving from one class to the next is required to buy a new set of books, and it is impossible to carry all the textbooks and exercise books in one bag every day. But this device can enable a student to download more than the required books for their entire period in high school.
Even when the books are revised, there is no need to buy new editions as they are automatically updated like smartphone applications.
Mr Richard Teka, the manager of the e-reader programme, says the introduction of the devices has created a reading culture in the school.
“Many Kenyans are not interested in reading. If we were to give these students hard copies of textbooks, most of them would not read them. However, out of the curiosity arising from the use of the electronic devices, the students end up reading,” he says.
Each student is assigned a device and is even allowed to go home with it to do some assignments.
This has improved their promptness in submitting assignments, Mr Teka says.
He also attributes the improvement of the school’s performance in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCPE) examinations from a mean grade of 5.9 to 6.3 to the e-readers.
He adds that the programme has removed the burden of buying expensive textbooks from the parents.
“A complete list of books for a student starting Form One, for example, will cost not less than Sh10,000, and these students come from a slum where that amount of money is the rent for a whole year,” he says.
“By comparison, one e-reader costs Sh7,000. When fully charged, it can work for up to a week,” he adds.
In comparison, the estimated price of a laptop in the aborted government tender was at least Sh28,000.
One of the students who have benefited from the e-readers is 14-year-old Cynthia Amundi, who is in Form Two.
She and her four siblings depend on her mother, a single parent, who washes clothes in nearby Lang’ata residential area for a living and cannot afford to buy textbooks for her.
“When I joined Form One, I only had two textbooks handed down to me by my relatives. There were times before the e-readers were introduced when I was completely unable to do my homework,” she says.
Today, she says she hardly puts her device down, as she has downloaded a number of storybooks that she reads during her free time.
Another student, 15-year-old Hadija Barakati, says her grades have improved as a result of using the device.
“The e-reader has given me a chance to compare several sources for any information that I may require, which will be impossible if I was using a traditional textbook,” she says.
The school is run by a community-based football organisation — Kibera Girls Soccer. The students, who are all talented footballers from the slum, do not pay school fees.
It started as a girls’ soccer club in 2002, before being turned into a community-run school in 2008, to prevent the members from dropping out of the team due to pregnancies.
The e-readers were introduced to the school by chance, after one of the teachers at Pacific Road School in California, United States, read an article posted by members of the Kenyan institution’s journalism club in a blog last year.
The American institution got interested in learning about the Kenyan school and linked it to the Worldreader, a non-profit organisation that provides digital books to selected schools from impoverished neighbourhoods in the world.
Kibera Girls Soccer Secondary School was the first educational institution in Kenya to receive e-books from the organisation.