Keith Magee - Camara's Education and Training Specialist

Keith Magee – Camara’s Senior Education and Training Specialist

Project iMlango – Camara’s groundbreaking educational initiative, in partnership with the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and corporate partners Avanti, sQuid and Whizz Education – has recently been rolled out across several pilot schools in Kenya.

Derived from the Swahili word for door or portal, iMlango seeks to improve learning and educational outcomes for 25,675 marginalised girls, across 195 primary schools in Kenya.

A quick reminder as to what Project iMlango delivers:

  • High-speed broadband connectivity to schools
  • Personalised maths tuition with a virtual online tutor, alongside digital learning content for maths, literacy and life skills
  • Tuition and support to teachers to use ICT in their teaching
  • Electronic attendance monitoring with conditional payments – to incentivise families to send their daughters to school – for use with local merchants
  • In-field capacity in IT, technology and support resources
  • Real-time project monitoring and measurement

Camara’s Senior Education Specialist, Keith Magee, was in Kenya recently to oversee the roll-out of the initial phase of iMlango. Upon his return, he sat down for a quick chat…

For people who don’t know the background, explain why is there such a need to target girls’ education with this project?

It’s a complex issue, and there are several reasons. Some of those are financial – families simply can’t afford to send their children to school, and often the girls will stay at home to help out with household chores. Boys are prioritised when it comes to making the decision on who attends school and who stays at home. A lack of money can also lead to a lack of food, and it is difficult for a girl to concentrate in school if she has not had supper the previous night. Then there is the issue the ability to purchase school uniforms and shoes which are requirements for schools to attend school. The lack of these items makes girls feel inferior and out of place, just like it would in any school the world over. There is also the issue of early marriage where a girl’s family receives a dowry with which to buy land – this means the girl is forced out of school at an early age. There are a host of factors, but the financial and cultural issues just mentioned are the main barriers to girls completing their education.

Given there are a lot of moving parts – and multiple partners – involved. How difficult is it to incorporate all the different aspects of iMlango into a school?

It’s a challenging though rewarding process. All partners work extremely well to communicate to get things done right. Camara has the great understanding of the context on the ground given we have been operating there for many years, so we are really supporting all the teams in getting iMlango up and running in schools. Our research shows that there is very little exposure to ICT in schools, and particularly integrating ICT into teaching practices. iMlango is trying to support this change by providing ICT tools to teachers to improve their day-to-day practices – either through attendance monitoring, or delivering quality instruction to children through ICT. This is always a difficult change process for any teacher anywhere in the world. Through instruction and support, all the partners are working assist schools, teachers and students embrace this change management process.

Comprehensive support of the schools is key through this start-up process. The project has this well-covered, with many instruction sessions on the different aspects of iMlango, follow-up support by Field Officers every month to offer continuous support to schools, and a customer support helpline for teachers and head teachers to ring if something goes wrong. These are really key enablers ensure that the project is successful and achieves the results expected.

Finally, the pilot scheme has started. How many schools are already benefiting from iMlango, and how long will it take to roll out across the 195 schools?

Our expectation is that over the coming months the project will be fully operational in all 195 schools. Five pilot schools in the Kilifi region have got instruction in Maths and the iMlango portal. They have started to use the in-classroom aspect of iMlango and hundreds of students have already engaged with the iMlango learning portal and received individualised maths tutoring

Learning from the pilot, we aim that the rest will start receiving instruction by April. A large number schools have set up online attendance-monitoring and instruction on how to use it in their school. We’ve a very busy few months ahead of us, but we’re well on course to meet the deadline. Of course, with any project of this scale and complexity, there will be bumps in the road along the way, but these will be minor when compared to the benefits that this project will bring to thousands of young girls in Kenya.

 

The hard work of getting iMlango up and running will continue in the coming months, and you can check http://camara.org/blog/ during that period for regular updates. For a more in-depth look at the structure of the project, click here.