Driving Inclusive Education with Technology
At the TECH4ALL Summit at Huawei Connect 2020, Nadia Ahmed Abdalla, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, Kenya Government, spoke on inclusive education in Kenya. Below is an edited version of Nadia’s keynote speech.
Transformation through Technology
Technology plays is vital to education today and represents powerful tool for transforming learning outcomes. It can help reinvent education approaches, reduce long-standing equity and accessibility gaps, and adapt learning experiences to meet the needs of all learners – especially those who are marginalised or have special needs. That is why it should be included in national development strategies.
50% of the world’s population still does not have Internet access, has limited opportunities, and lack the skills needed to use digital devices. As a result, the digital divide in education continues to widen, exacerbating exclusion, which especially affects the most vulnerable members of society such as young people. The challenge of limited access to ICT constrains young people from exploiting the education opportunities that are available.
The Value of Inclusive Education
Education is a basic human right. Inclusive education should therefore guide all education policies and practices. Inclusion processes should particularly target the disadvantaged and marginalised. Providing technology accessibility for all learners especially for those with special needs is critical in bringing equity to learning through technology thus closing the digital use divide. As governments, learning institutions and education stakeholders, we should commit to working together to use technology to improve education by developing learning resources that embody the flexibility and power of technology to create equitable, inclusive and accessible learning ecosystems that make learning opportunities possible everywhere and all the time for all.
From school closures, to isolation, to a persistent sense of fear and anxiety, the effects of this pandemic are impacting young people worldwide. According to data from UNESCO, 1.57 billion students have been affected by school closures across the world. School closures, coupled with limited or non-existent opportunities for remote learning, have disrupted and changed the face and future of education worldwide.
The pandemic continues to disrupt education, not just because it demands an evolution in online learning, but also because it demands revolution to close the dangerous gap of digital inequity in learning. The deepening digital divide is one of the many inequalities that the pandemic has underscored.
Just as the pandemic’s impact has no borders, its solutions must not have borders, as it requires the collaboration across public and private sectors to ensure every student or young person stays engaged and continues learning.
Agenda for Action
As a COVID-19 Agenda for Action, prioritization of Internet connectivity especially in rural and remote areas, is crucial for young people to keep learning.
Connection fuels this learning, but inclusion should be the pre-condition that ensures learning takes us in the right direction. Those without a secure and reliable digital connection are at an unacceptably widening disadvantage. We need connection which provides continuity and virtual access both of which are vital. When the digital difference between ‘have’ vs. ‘have not’ becomes ‘know’ vs. ‘know not’, our future is at risk. There is need to design and deploy digital solutions that enable learning for young people by providing schools with connectivity. This is a critical step towards providing every young person with access to digital learning opportunities.
The role of the Government of Kenya in inclusive education includes the process of strengthening the capacity of the education systems to reach out to all learners. Our strategy is to build capacity in tech innovation and utilization of knowledge to transform the economy of our country. We have developed a number of frameworks to drive this development, such as the Digital Economy Blueprint for Africa, the National Broadband Strategy, the National ICT Master Plan and the ICT Strategic Plan aimed at transforming the use of ICT to spur inclusive economic growth in the country.
The Blueprint sets clear outcomes, identifies opportunities and areas that need further focus, while outlining corresponding plans of action for Government, private sector and our citizens.
The Government of Kenya endeavors to see every young Kenyan achieve their potential and contribute to the development of our nation.
The Government of Kenya is committed to expanding young people’s opportunities through digital skills and training opportunities to fully integrate into the country’s technological transformation. We focus on facilitating Internet connectivity in schools and digital training skills which are some of the key ways to improve equitable and quality education. As the Ministry charged with the national youth mandate, education is one of our priority policy areas for youth development. We seek to empower youth and harness their potential in sustainable development by building a qualified and competent youth workforce, developing talent, creativity and innovation. Our Government has embarked on a number of scalable programmes to ensure inclusive education using technology:
- The launch of balloon-powered Internet service to provide Internet service to remote areas of Kenya. The technology offers connectivity to many Kenyans in remote regions that are underserved or totally unserved, and as such remain disadvantaged;
- DigiSchool Digital Literacy Programme, which is borne out of the Government’s vision to ensure every pupil is prepared for today’s digital world, and to transform learning in Kenya into a 21st century education system. By connecting schools, we endeavor to provide access to high-quality educational resources such as digital curriculums and e-learning applications by connecting schools to the Internet with our partners.
So far, 19,042 public primary schools have been connected to power by national grid, 3,239 schools connected to power by solar and 21,638 public primary schools have been supplied with 1,169,000 devices. In addition, the two local device assembly plants have been established in two universities with daily production capacity of 1,200 and 600 digital devices respectively; and
- The AJIRA Digital Programme set up to providing digital skills training for young people while introducing them to digital work opportunities. So far, we have trained over 50,000 young people. 120,000 are registered on the portal and 40 Ajira Digital Clubs have been established in universities and technical colleges. We have just concluded a number of trainings that have seen 4,939 trained in the Public Service Commission Pilot Programme and 1,520 in the Public Training Pilot Programme from the month of June to August 2020. In addition, 2,271 youth have been on-boarded in mentorship classrooms and 2,034 linked to jobs in Business Processing Outsourcing, Small and Medium Size Enterprises, eCommerce and online work platform.
- Huawei ICT Academy training program @ AJIRA Digital
- How Learning Is Staying ON for Kenya’s Zetech University during the Pandemic
We understand that what has been achieved, however meaningful, is still not enough. Therefore we endeavor to aim to achieve more through focused and consistent implementation. We plan to roll out more initiatives uniquely positioned as scalable learning solutions to bridge the digital learning gap for young people countrywide by facilitating online learning and bring their classrooms into their homes during the pandemic and in school post Covid-19.
Partnerships Can Lead to Change
Public-private cooperation is key to accelerating the resolution of education issues. Achievement of greater digital inclusion in the education field requires cross-sector efforts by the governments, organizations, educational institutions, and technology companies to contribute their respective experiences and resources.
We appreciate the collaborative role and efforts of innovators and educators who work to explore new learning models, new digital learning environments, and new approaches to working, learning, and sharing is essential if we want technology to be an effective tool to transform learning. The adaptations made so far in e-learning that provide content available to young people are a powerful reminder of what we can achieve together during this pandemic. Through partnerships, we are able to swiftly deploy innovative, scalable solutions. This will ultimately accelerate the achievement of Sustainable Goal Number Four (4) – of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030.
Keeping Pace with Global Changes
The change in demographics the world is experiencing coupled with fast-moving technological advances, presents a critical moment in history. The world is home to the largest generation of young people ever – 1.8 billion. They may represent 25% of the global population but they account for 100% of the future. If we act wisely and urgently, we can create a skilled cohort of young people better prepared to create sustainable economies and peaceful and prosperous countries. We have a critical window of opportunity in building better futures – either we capture the demographic dividend and unlock their potential or we face a lost generation and stagnation. The stakes could not be higher. Let’s ensure that every young person is able to find their place in society through education. Let us aim to ensure no young person is left behind by helping to empower them so they can create a bright future for themselves and generations to come.
When we invest in young people’s education, our potential for progress as nations is unlimited. Without urgent technological investment in education, the rapidly growing global population of adolescents and young people – which will reach 2 billion by 2030 – will continue to be unprepared and unskilled for the future workforce. And with more than 200 million young people of lower- and upper-secondary school age currently missing out on school, instead of contributing to equitable progress, young people – especially the most disadvantaged – could face futures that compound deprivation and discrimination. All our hopes for a better world rest on young people.
By offering every young person opportunity, we will boost their wellbeing and that of families, increase our economies and help meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainable development, human rights, peace, and security can only be fully achieved if we educate and empower every young person and enable them unleash their full potential. If we act wisely and urgently, we can create a skilled cohort of young people better prepared to create sustainable economies and peaceful and prosperous societies. I encourage all actors in the education sector to play a full and active role in supporting and promoting inclusive education through technology.
As a country, we applaud those who are increasing their efforts to provide technology in transformative ways for learning. We are eager to take a step forward in understanding and sharing how we can further use technology to ensure inclusivity in education through this Summit and look forward to insightful discussions that will provide a clearer understanding of innovative ideas and actionable recommendations to implement technology that will advance the effective use of technology to support inclusive learning and teaching.
About the Author
Nadia Ahmed Abdalla serves as Chief Administrative Secretary Ministry of ICT, State Department of Innovation and Youth Affairs. Her role includes driving the Ajira initiative, which helps youth access digital job opportunities by providing them with access to infrastructure, education and skills, awareness and access to dignified work.
The Ministry also spearheads Kenya’s Digital Literacy Programme to make sure every pupil is prepared for today’s digital world that has provided 1.2m devices to teachers and students in every primary school in Kenya.
Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.