It’s time to roll out the school laptops project

Thursday January 7 2016

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Contracts for the supply of laptops to schools will be awarded Friday, setting the stage for rolling out a project that has stalled for three years.

Among the reasons why the project failed to take off was contestation by various suppliers who complained of unfair practices in the award of the contracts.

This time round, a number of the contenders are local universities, which are teaming up with other providers to manufacture and supply the gadgets.

That is a remarkable development in the sense that it promotes local skills and entrepreneurship and hopefully brings on board a consortia of organisations that are not ruthlessly mercantilist as to disrupt the processes at every stage.

However, a more fundamental point is that the delay should have given the government more time to properly conceptualise the laptop project, away from the initial politically-driven thinking that had all the hallmarks of failure.

In particular, the project should be executed in such a manner that it tackles challenges in education such as fewer teachers and inadequate teaching resources.

More significantly, the thinking should move away from giving each Standard One child a laptop but stocking them in schools for use by the entire population of learners, thus guaranteeing optimum use and security.
Also, the digital content already developed by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development must be reviewed to ensure relevance.

The provision of laptops must not be seen as an end but a complementary means to enhancing quality teaching in public schools, which are increasingly performing poorly in national examinations.

After three years of false-starts, it is hoped that the process of awarding the contract will be foolproof and that it will go to the most competent suppliers so that the project can be rolled out finally.