July 29 2015

New technologies help increase literacy among children in Kenya

A partnership between SOS Children’s Villages and Plan International, along with companies, governments and civil sector groups, is helping to share the benefits of technology with disadvantaged communities in Kenya.

Aiming to increase literacy among children aged 6 to 9, the Open Space Literacy (OSL) project introduces new technologies to students and teachers in disadvantaged communities. OSL is part of the global effort known as Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT4D).
Starting last year with 25 schools in Nairobi, Kenya, the goal is to reach 300 schools nationally within a few years.
Thanks to the support of partners including SOS Children’s Villages Austria, SOS Children's Villages Italy, Nokia, British Telecom and Lenovo, OSL helps teachers develop inclusive teaching methods, classroom leadership, and the use of information and communication technologies. The project helps create networks for teachers and engages parents and community members in school management.

The partnership with Plan International, private companies, public institutions and the government has been key to the project's success.
Around 14,500 pupils, 580 teachers and 140 school management board members from disadvantaged communities have directly participated in the project. Moreover, around 10,800 children are benefitting indirectly thanks to improvements in school management. About 17,500 people across the community have benefitted directly or indirectly from OSL.

Sustainability is key to the project

Literacy is one of the major education gaps in Kenya.

School management committees and community members are learning how technology integration in schools can support learning, and about the importance of parents reading with their children at home.

As a result, “they are actively participating in the project, creating strategies and promotion activities for its sustainability, as well as contributing to sustain OSL through securing rooms for the devices, donating furniture and contributing financially with what they can," said Daniel Oloo, ICT4D Coordinator at SOS Children’s Villages Kenya and project manager of OSL.
The Government of Kenya has acknowledged the value of OSL for education in the public schools and is supporting its implementation in cooperation with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, through the provision of qualified trainers to train teachers how to integrate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into their work.

A total of 16 pioneer teachers were selected to follow a more specialised training on ICT and act as technical support for their colleagues in the schools in solving problems internally and supporting the sustainability of the project.

Lydiah Mureithi, a teacher at Dr Livingstone School, says: “Public schools [have] scarce resources in terms of text books, the ratio being 5:97. I use OSL devices to project part of the textbook to the pupils, allowing the whole class to benefit. I also use digital content in the OSL devices, and the pupils really enjoy the lessons!
A recent internal monitoring, taking as reference a baseline recorded in January 2015, has already shown improvements in literacy levels in grades 1–3 in all implementing schools. Several head teachers also indicated that the pupils’ performance had improved generallyl.
Tom Were, National Director of SOS Kenya, highlighted that “OSL implements a holistic approach towards attaining quality education with the use of ICT by the lower grade children. Effective Early Grade Learning (Literacy) is one of the biggest educational challenges in the country that affects our children, and now that we have the first results on the benefits the OSL approach brings, we look forward to scale it in more schools across Kenya. For this, we make a call to potential partners to join us in this project and help us in providing quality education to children to support them in achieving their full potential”.

And what do the children, teachers and parents say about OSL?

Eight-year-old girl from class 2 at Dr Livingstone School: “I play games using the laptops and the interactive wall during the English lessons. I am always happy as I play the educational games because they are interesting”.
John Olouch, parent of a child at James Gichuru Primary School: “From the inception of the project, my son Samuel has been very happy and wants to go to school every day. I participated in a school meeting where they explained to us the importance of reading with our children. I don’t read very well but I sit with my son to hear him read. I support this project and I hope you can reach more pupils”.
Phoebe Sitati, teacher at Nairobi River Primary School: “I thought using computers was very difficult, but after the trainings I am happy and confident using technology to teach reading and writing effectively. My 45 children in the classroom are very active during the lessons and they participate a lot”.
Mary Mureithi, teacher at Kimathi Primary School: “OSL is very useful and saves us time. For example, if I want to teach a lesson, it is easy to draft a lesson from the laptop and hence deliver the lesson using the projector. It is interesting because children like learning what they see and like to actively participate in the learning through the interactive projector”.
Seven-year-old boy from class 1 at Kimathi Primary School: ‘I learnt English using the laptops and the projector. I touched the screen and letters and sounds move, and I like to learn like that. I was taught by Mrs Yembe to use the computer after and when lessons finish we can come back and continue reading”.