Sunday Nation October 14th, 2014

young Nation E-Kitabu Rhoda PDF_001

My essay on technology won me a laptop

As Standard One pupils eagerly await the government to honour its  promise  to  issuethem  with laptops,  Rhoda  Agula  is among  the  five  lucky  pupils  who have  already  received  theirs.  This is   after   the   14-year-old    student from  Kwa  Njenga  Primary  School in  Nairobi  emerged   the  winner  in the recently  concluded 2014  Digital Essay Competition.

The  competition,  which ran under the  theme  ‘Tunaenda  Digital’, targeted   primary  schools  from  all the 47 counties where they were required  to  write  an essay  on how the use of technology would impact their education.them  with laptops,  Rhoda  Agula  is among  the  five  lucky  pupils  who have  already  received  theirs.  This is   after   the   14-year-old    student from  Kwa  Njenga  Primary  School in  Nairobi  emerged   the  winner  in the recently  concluded 2014  Digital Essay Competition.

According    to   the   Ministry    of Education     and    digital    content publishing  company  E-Kitabu,  who jointly  sponsored  the  programme, the   competition   was   meant   to challenge schools on their readiness to   go   digital.  Additionally,  they wanted  the  pupils to  communicate their ideas  and wishes for the ‘One Laptop  per  Child’  programme  that the government intends to launch. Speaking  to  the  ‘Young  Nation’ a week  ago  when  she  was  declared the    winner   during    the    Nairobi International  trade  fair,  Rhoda  said she least expected it. “I am overjoyed for winning this award,”  she said. “I have  never  won anything  in my  life and to win a laptop as the very first prize is overwhelming.”

The judges said her essay  showed an indepth understanding of what technology   entails   and   a   deep yearning for the government  laptop project to roll out. If the contents of her essay titled ‘Technology in my Education, Dream or reality’, are anything to go by, Rhoda passes off as a tech savvy girl who knows a lot about computers.

One computer

Interestingly,  the  closest  she  has come to computers is seeing one at the office  of her headmistress or on the display windows of computer shops  in  town.   Her  family  of  nine siblings lives in a two-roomed  house in the middle of Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums in Nairobi and they don’t own a computer.

Additionally,  Kwa  Njenga  Primary School  which she  attends  only  has one  computer  that  is  used  by  the headmistress.  She  wrote  her  essay and submitted  it to her Class 7 East teacher Jennifer  Mukari to scan  it at a cyber café before emailing it to the judges as being a digital competition; all entries were to be sent by email. Writing       entirely       from       her imagination  she  balanced  between the  positive  and  negative  impacts that  technology  can  have  not  only on  education   but  in  the  country as   a   whole.  In  the   introductory paragraphs,     she    defined    what technology   is  and  then  proceeded to give a brief history of how people started  using  technology  from  the early ages.

“People  started  using  technology by  converting  natural  things  into simple tools like stones, weapons and the discovery  of fire which changed the whole world,” she wrote. However, her essay  dwelt a lot on the possibilities that the introduction of computers to aid in learning would have  to   pupils  in  public  schools who cannot even afford enough textbooks  forcing  them  to  rely  on those provided by schools.

She wrote on how it would make it possible for pupils to  access  books and how the cost  of operations  for schools will be reduced. She also included a diagram showing how the content of several books could be shrunk to fit in a single flash disk that fits easily in a pocket.

This, she said, was from her own experience  as a girl living in a slum. “In  our  class,  the  teacher  gives  us one textbook per every six pupils and sometimes we get into arguments on who will go home with the textbook. “If homework has been given  and you need the book you are forced to go to your class mates house at night and walking through the slums alone in the dark is not a good thing as you may  meet  bad  people  out  to  rape you,” she explained.

Her class  teacher  Ms  Mukari  said as  a  consequence  the  performance of  pupils  in  the  school  is  below average   and pupils hardly do  their homework due to lack of books.

“In a class of 70 pupils, you get that it is only one who owns a textbook and  the  rest  rely  on  the  school  to provide   learning   materials.   This affects the performance,” she said. However, because of her creativity, Rhoda will not have to walk through the  dark  alleys  of  Kwa  Njenga  at night  to  borrow  textbooks  as  the laptop  she  won  has  been  installed with  the  official  school  curriculum from the government and approved textbooks for her to use.