Bridging the digital divide in Kenya

The Kenyan education system received a shock when its government closed all schools and colleges nationwide in response to the first positive test of COVID-19 on 15 March 2020.

Nearly 70 per cent of children who attend school in Kenya live in rural areas, where most learning resources are scarce. While a quarter of Kenyan learners—especially those living in urban settings—were able to access virtual classes, the majority experienced significant challenges to continuing their education, predominantly due to poor connectivity.

We quickly worked with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) to make OUP titles available via their Kenya Education Cloud, which provides all students nationally with high-quality educational content anywhere and anytime, and in online classes for KICD’s TV and radio stations. We also established new channels to make our learning materials digitally available to more children and parents, using platforms such as Snapplify, Ekitabu, and Juza.

However, this did not address the needs of the many children without reliable access to the internet so we partnered with the Standard Media Group to make our revision material available through their e-learning platform, Tutor-Soma. In addition to this, we provided free access to a number of our books as a result of the Kenyan government’s agreement with Google Loon—the implementation of “floating cell towers” through use of balloons, with just one balloon estimated to give coverage up to 200 times the reach of the average cell phone tower—to increase connectivity across the country.

Simultaneously, we worked with our distributors to deliver OUP books nationwide at an affordable price, ensuring that learners could still access the resources they needed at home, without having to go out to purchase them in the midst of the pandemic.

Recognizing that supporting teachers as they adapted to a new way of teaching, the Kenyan team also embarked on an extensive programme of virtual professional development for teachers on the new curriculum, topics of wellness, cybersecurity, and using digital skills when teaching during the pandemic. The programme proved to be extremely beneficial, enabling OUP to reach and support a staggering 86,000 teachers. Parents were also invited to join some Zoom calls to better support their children in learning from home.