On Monday, January 24, 2022, the world celebrated International Day of Education. Education is the foundation of Kenya’s development, with human capital being essential for economic and social development.
Indeed, competence is one of the pillars of the government’s Digital Economy Blueprint launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2019. During the pandemic, education has been both significantly disrupted and dramatically transformed. We must reflect and adapt the education of the future to develop the digital economy and achieve Vision 2030.
According to a World Bank study, it is estimated that disruptions in school participation and learning are expected to result in losses valued at $15 trillion. This concerns the future earnings of the children concerned and the long-term impacts on well-being and life prospects, in particular for the most disadvantaged learners. The effects of Covid-19 on education could be felt for decades.
The vast majority of us are looking forward to putting behind us the events that began in early 2020 as a result of the pandemic. To wreak havoc on learning across the world, resulting in disruption and school closures; The pandemic has not only increased inequalities in education and learning across the country, but has also laid bare existing challenges within the sector, particularly with regards to preparedness and readiness.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Changing the Course, Transforming Education”. Technology has played a significant role in transforming education as we know it, with the growth of online learning. According to a study conducted by Unesco, at the start of the pandemic, it was estimated that 826 million students worldwide did not have home computers, 706 million did not have Internet access at home and 56 another million did not have access to 3G/4G network coverage.
Without adequate ICT devices, internet connectivity, educational resources or teacher training, virtual learning cannot be a reality. This poses a great risk that more students will be left behind and therefore increase existing inequalities.
The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology in the education sector through e-learning. Governments and the private sector have played a key role in ensuring the continuity of learning.
In Kenya, network operators are delivering 4G networks that cover over 96% of the population and are rapidly extending last-mile fiber to homes. This was particularly timely given the transition to remote work and study and Huawei not only provided equipment for many mobile and fiber networks nationwide, but maintained them throughout the shutdowns, ensuring reliable connectivity to all during the pandemic.
The Ministry of Education has provided support for distance education using the internet, radio and television while encouraging academic institutions to adapt teaching materials to create a more accessible online learning environment.
Many network operators have provided free or subsidized access to the government’s Kenya Education Cloud and private sector education websites. The Ajira program, through the Ministry of ICT, has provided youth with access to e-learning resources enabling tens of thousands of young people to develop skills, obtain certifications and online employment paid.
Education technology (EdTech) has thus enabled distance learning and education, coming to the rescue of educators locally and around the world. With the proliferation and penetration of mobile technology in developing markets, EdTech has the potential to give millions of students the opportunity to learn now and in the future.
Huawei continued to play a key role in providing learning resources through our multiple digital skills programs. At the height of the pandemic, the company launched the Learn-ON program to provide online learning resources to thousands of students and lecturers, including launching the UniTech Talk online lecture series.
Huawei ICT Academy’s partnerships with higher education institutions provided training in cutting-edge technologies, while Huawei’s Seeds for the Future program went virtual, increasing the number of undergraduate students who received training on new technologies, leadership and industry trends from experts around the world. To reach those in need of more basic digital skills, the Huawei Digitruck program provided digital skills training to more than 1,231 beneficiaries in 14 counties during the pandemic in remote areas.
As we look to the future, it is essential that we continue to ensure that online learning becomes the norm, enabling students and young people to learn anything online, anytime. , anywhere. To do this, we must also overcome the obstacles that have become painfully clear during the pandemic, such as improving access to devices, electricity and digital skills.
It is also essential to improve the use of technology in schools. Building on the deployment of digital devices in schools through the digital literacy program, Huawei is working with the Ministry of ICT and Unesco to connect schools to high-speed internet.
We have just completed the pilot project with 13 primary and secondary schools in nine counties connected to the National Fiber Optic Infrastructure, a government-built network that reaches most sub-counties. This has enabled students and teachers to access online content and improve the quality of education. The government plans to connect many more schools.
As a country, we have made significant progress in ensuring that learning never stops during the pandemic and we have seen the possibilities of what learning might look like in the future.
And as we mark International Day of Education, we must all commit to making the use of technology a priority to improve equity, access and quality of learning for all, so that the country and every Kenyan can reach their full potential to enable the development of the digital economy.
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