Government-funded Laptop Project Faces Opposition… From Parents

This week in class we studied the One Laptop Per Child organization and had a lengthy discussion about its obvious flaws. As IDEV students, we often find ourselves criticizing the various projects and organizations we study; its rare, however, that we see the beneficiaries of these projects condemning them as well. This article from the Associated Press in July 2013 discussed why a group of Kenyan parens voiced their opposition to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s $615 million plan to give laptops to 1.2 million school children. Parents felt that the money for the computers should be put towards raising teachers’ salaries and feeding impoverished students.

As one member of the Kenya National Association of Parents explained, “the program is bound to fail in a country that lacks enough teachers and where others strike regularly for better pay”. In 2013, Kenya faced a shortfall of 40,000 teachers. Additionally, more than 200,000 teachers in public schools across the country went on strike to protest unpaid allowances that the government had promised 16 years earlier. These parents felt that current teachers did not have the capacity to implement laptops into the classroom due to lack of training and a government-developed curriculum for the project. Additionally, a previous incident where 70 million textbooks in a public primary-school went missing added to worries that many laptops would be lost, stolen, or sold for food money.

One government spokesman defended the laptop project, saying it was crucial to Kenya’s goal of training a digital-savvy workforce. The Consumer Federation of Kenya, on the other hand, said the project had noble intentions but was “not well thought out and was politicized beyond redemption.” Many parents also felt there were better alternatives to how the government’s money should be spent when it comes to public education. In order to meet the population’s education demands, Kenya needs 42,000 classrooms. The money used for the laptops could be put towards building more schools to expand the country’s education system. Alternatively, some of the money would be better used to fund more children in the nation-wide school food program, meant to help poor children to stay in school, improve their health, and encourage nutrition.

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3 responses to “Government-funded Laptop Project Faces Opposition… From Parents

  • bstanga

    The importance of appropriate responses to development cannot be stressed enough. Governments and NGO’s should come up with proportionate solutions to problems- throwing laptops at an understaffed school cannot improve education! It great to see parents coming together to voice their opinions on their children’s education. In the United States, there is a very strong PTA (Parent Teacher Association) culture that is not present in other countries. It would be interesting to see what impact similar organizations have in other countries- to what extent do Kenyan parent influence the direction and curriculum of their children’s schools?

  • areed2014

    This project is another example of technology being viewed as the “quick fix” to development. Clearly, in order to create a “digital-savvy workforce” there needs to be foundation in education and the economy that allows for this workforce formation to occur. I am glad that you brought up the voices of parents. Often, when we discuss development projects for primary and secondary education, we focus on the interaction between the teachers and children. Parents, however, are a crucial stakeholder in education projects as it is their kids and their lives that are simultaneously being affected. I would be curious to see what kind of ICT projects could emerge if parent input was taken into account more.

  • kbruce2016

    I think this blog post shows how the use of ICTs in development can be not only ineffective, but in some cases they can even be harmful. With so many teachers already going on strike for better pay, a government investment in something as advanced as $615 million of computers instead of an investment in teacher salaries could definitely anger teachers and lead to further striking. Also, in presenting the problem of limited technological knowledge, the government is detracting from a focus on other problems. Yes, it is important to have a tech-savy work force, but first you need to have an educated, healthy workforce. Bringing in other issues like this takes away focus from bigger problems like healthcare and basic education.

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