E-learning is the panacea to lack of bed space in our varsities

Saturday March 26 2016

Cabinet Secretary for Education Fred Matiang'i shows pupils how to operate a laptop at The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development on December 15, 2015. PHOTO | GERALD ANDERSON | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Cabinet Secretary for Education Fred Matiang'i shows pupils how to operate a laptop at The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development on December 15, 2015. PHOTO | GERALD ANDERSON | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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To say that Kenyan universities lack enough physical space for students transiting from secondary schools is no new finding.

Thousands of them who meet the minimum entry grade are still left behind as there are no vacancies for them.

How to provide adequate opportunities to all these students who keep increasing every year is an issue that ought to exercise the minds of educationists and other players more aggressively.

Of course the obvious answer to this persistent challenge is expansion of education infrastructure.

This calls for building of more classrooms, hostels and living quarters, and hiring of more lecturers as well as provision of other vital services and materials. In short, there is a lot that needs to be done to give more children a chance to nurture and realise their diverse dreams.

However with the advancement of technology, more innovative ways can be used to expand available spaces for education at the institutions of higher learning. We do not have to necessarily build more classrooms or increase bed space. 


With increased investment in digital education, the need for physical facilities and the huge outlay of capital required to set up such infrastructure will be reduced significantly. 

Thousands of students have graduated by undertaking their programmes online and thousands more are pursuing their studies.

A Kenyan student does not have to go to the US, for instance, to study in one of its top universities. All you need is a reliable, fast and affordable internet connectivity. 

Analysts have underscored the promise that technology holds in addressing some of the most pressing challenges that the education sector in Kenya and indeed the whole continent faces.

It is encouraging to note that Kenya is recognising this as evidenced by the primary schools laptop project.

However, for virtual education to thrive, there are fundamental conditions that must be met. Vibrant e-learning presupposes affordable internet connection.

African countries, Kenya included, still pay heavily to access the internet making e-learning an expensive affair.

There is, therefore, a need among players to discuss how to bring down the internet charges with a view to lowering the cost of education.

If this is not done, Africa risks lagging behind in an era in which the trend is to increasingly reduce the brick-and-mortar expansion of education opportunities.

It is untenable in this day and age of information super highway to talk about insufficient bed space when students can do their studies from the comfort of their homes.


How to enhance internet connection in Kenya and indeed the whole continent should, therefore, preoccupy the minds of educationists and technology gurus.

Kenya particularly has a huge opportunity to be a regional leader in e-learning. The country enjoys relatively cheaper internet access in East Africa.

The fiber-optic cable has terminated the use of the expensive satellite services.

This is good news as the widespread access of the internet enhances education acquisition.

However, there is still need to find innovative ways to lower these costs. 

Kenya Education Network, which provides bandwidth services to universities, need to be revamped in order to play its role more effectively.

Dr Gicharu is the founder and chairman Mt Kenya University