Over the past decade, enhanced internet penetration rates and the affordability of computers has made the use of ICT integral in learning across the world. However, for numerous schools across Laikipia, intermittent internet access and poor infrastructure places many students at a disadvantage, due to a lack of access to informational material.
Earlier this month, a collaboration between, Afretech, Ol Pejeta and Rotary International among other partners facilitated a three-day training on the use of the African Ruggedised Education Solution (ARES) box. The training, held at Mount Kenya Baptist School in Nanyuki from the 6th to 8th August, brought together over one hundred teachers, principals and education representatives from schools surrounding the conservancy. The goal was to familiarise educators with this new and very powerful resource that provides almost everything students and teachers need to move forward in this digital world. In addition to the trainings, 10 schools have been issued with over 135 computers, 10 projectors and assorted electronics in the last 2 years. This is ongoing and more devices will continue to be distributed to community schools.
Laikipia County Speaker Patrick Waigwa hands over a certificate to Mr. Ringera, Deputy Prinipal of Sweetwaters Secondary School.
The conference was officially opened by the Speaker of the Laipikia County Assembly, Patrick Waigwa and the commencement speech done by Francis Ngware, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Director for Laikipia. Various members of the TSC and the Education Office were present representing their dockets.
The ARES box is a small server loaded with educational resources meant for classrooms with limited or no Internet access. It was designed by the Afretech IT Director. Afretech is an all-volunteer Canadian NGO that has been installing libraries and computer labs in Africa since 1992, and understand the challenges associated with technology in remote areas. ARES has been designed in such a way that intermittent power surges, dust, and heat do not interrupt learning. Moreover, this server can run for over 6 hours on its battery and connect with up to forty Wi-Fi connected devices – notebooks, tablets, smart phones.
11 Laikipia schools currently have ARES and the conference was designed to showcase ARES’ content and help educators develop lessons emphasising critical thinking. More Ol Pejeta supported schools are slated to get the boxes, thanks to a US$ 130,000 grant from 4 Rotary Clubs in North America, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Nairobi North.
Some of the content on the ARES box includes: Wikipedia for Schools, Khan Academy videos, STEM resources, 45,000 downloadable books from the Gutenberg Library, The African Storybook Project, World Atlases, TED Talks and much more. The device also allows for teachers to add their own local content and is currently being updated with conservation education content from Ol Pejeta.
Unlike traditional trainings were a few members of staff in a school are sent to learn then share with the rest, this conference involved all the teachers in the invited schools. The attendees were excited about the training and from their feedback, it is clear they would love to have a training every school holiday since there was so much to learn. We expect this will galvanise enthusiasm among teachers in Laikipia for ICT integration and ultimately impact directly on the learners.