Located in Nairobi, Kenya, Kibera is the largest informal settlement* in Africa. It is home to an estimated one million people covering an area of 2.5 square kilometres. Its inhabitants face numerous challenges including illiteracy, improper shelter, poor sanitation and insecurity.
The Kenya National Library Service (KNLS) in partnership with Practical Action (an NGO) and Berkley Foundation (UK) decided to set up a community library in Kibera. The knlsKibera Community Library is located within the informal settlement and is surrounded by over 25 primary schools, 4 secondary schools and a tertiary college. The Library, which receives over 500 visitors daily, is an invaluable resource for schools when it comes to implementing the Social Pillar of the Kenya Vision 2030 which states that information, communication and technology shall be integrated into teaching and learning.
In 2012, to meet the objective of stimulating a desire for education among the younger population of the slum and to equalize opportunities for children from poor families to interact with technology to advance their learning and improve school performance, the Library began a project called “Kids on the Tab”. The essence of the project was to support classroom teaching across all school subjects by using tablet computers with pre-loaded educational content related to school curriculum. Educational content and applications provided by the project partner eLimu, an educational agency which promotes technology and skills in Kenya, guided children through the science and mathematics topics in an interactive, unique and engaging way by using animations, videos, songs, games and quizzes.
During the first round of training, instead of a projected 30 students, a total of 120 children were trained. For most of the students it was the first interaction with technology in their lives, and basic ICT skills were the focus. The second phase of training was curriculum-intensive, focusing on English, science and mathematics.
The “Kids on the Tab” had a tremendous impact on educational outcomes of students within the community. The first group of students who benefited from the program took their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations in 2013 and showed a considerable improvement in their mean grades compared to students in previous years. “Since the students attended tablet computer trainings, they have shown great improvement, particularly in English, and this has influenced their other subjects. “– said Lawrence Wanji, a local elementary teacher.
Before the project, no children from Kibera had ever gained admission to provincial and national high schools. As the result of the “Kids on the Tab” project, out of the five schools that participated in the first trainings, 35 children (almost 30% of the project participants) were admitted to national schools. “This was the change of a lifetime. We learnt how to Google, how to do research, take photos and we get access to all school subjects. We learnt through solving puzzles and doing tests, like test-yourself mathematics. The project helped me improve my academic progress.” – said Albert, Class 8, Anajali School.
“Kids on the Tab”, which started as a project supported by EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme, is now a regular activity at knlsKibera Community Library. The remarkable improvements for students such as age-gains in mental calculations and increased confidence and motivation to learn are indicators of its success. The Library continues to work with teachers in the urban slum to open their eyes to the value of the pre-loaded tablet computers and the Internet in classroom teaching.
*Informal settlements are known as slums in urban areas.