ART CHECK

Digital work culture and future of reading

This month is a special chance to work on the habits and characters of our children

In Summary

• May Day 2020 is a time of digital learning and virtual graduation ceremonies

Pupils of Nyamecheo Primary school in Kenyenya sub-county try their computer knowledge during the launch of the digital literacy programme at the institution
Pupils of Nyamecheo Primary school in Kenyenya sub-county try their computer knowledge during the launch of the digital literacy programme at the institution
Image: BENSON NYAGESIBA

It is now over a month since the learning institutions in Kenya were closed as the government rolled out strategies to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Most children and youths in the country would have finished their April vacation this week had this been a normal year of learning. Second term was poised to begin on May 4 onwards. This is now unlikely.

On Sunday, Education CS Prof George Magoha announced the vacation will continue for another month as the government monitors the pandemic. Parents will be with their children throughout the month of May.

 

Today, May Day 2020, will be remembered for generations to come. Many will recall it in retrospect as the month where workers stayed at home, or worked from home, as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

To me, this unique month of May at home is a special chance to work on the habits and characters of our children. Parents can seize it as a golden opportunity to inculcate national values embodied in our work spirit of harambee.

They can do so by working on the reading culture of our Information Age, cultivating it in their offspring as they continue to enjoy unprecedented extended time together in their families.

 

Several schools have come up with alternative programmes for learning and instruction. Some have opted to continue their operations online. This is mainly the case with vocational and technical colleges, such as the Nairobi Institute of Business Studies (NIBS) Technical College, as well as universities, both private and public.

Saint Paul’s University and Kenyatta University, for instance, continue to offer their courses, albeit online through virtual and distance learning. Dedan Kimathi University of Technology will hold a graduation ceremony virtually on Friday next week. It will be the first of its kind in Kenya.

Other schools are relying on local arrangements between parents and teachers to keep the students busy at home. They use social media platforms for maximum advantage in terms of collection and dissemination of learning materials. This has been made possible using advances in mobile phone technology in the form of smartphones and social media platforms, such as WhatsApp. 

Soft copy versions of instructional and assessment materials are shared easily in Controlled Virtual Groups (CVG) as the reality of our information-based knowledge societies of today becomes ever so clear and inevitable.  

Learners in far-flung regions of the country have not been left behind entirely. The government has made use of its vast network of signals of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.

The Ministry of Education has enabled the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) to broadcast lessons and learning activities through EDU channel using the KBC signals. EDU channel is a government media house located in Nairobi but whose learner-centred programmes are accessible via TV and radio services across our nation.

Additionally, other online reading resources for our children are now available to parents as they work at home or from home. Different depositories and actors in the book industry are offering access to free texts in soft copy as the pandemic persists. This is especially the case across Europe and the US, but online access enables us to make use of them from here.

Cambridge University Press, for instance, has offered free online access to higher education institutions in support of the youths who are now away from college for an indefinite duration.

SAGE, another leading academic publisher, is giving free access to a research collection, where they curate over 1,000 academic journals and hundreds of new books in different areas of study. Both can be accessed online from the comfort and safety of home by use of our mobile phones. The same applies for preschool, with actors such as Vooks (www.vooks.com) offering free reading materials.

 

This Internet-enabled access to home-schooling resources is bound to be easier in coming months. The national government is set to spread widely mobile Internet access through a partnership it has with Google and Telkom Kenya.

Named Project Loon, Google balloons will help offer 4G lite Internet services from this second term season of Kenyan schools. Strong online connectivity will enhance e-learning experiences and access/distribution of online learning materials and soft copies of reading texts.

As the country enters the second phase of social distancing as well as partial lockdown in major counties, our collective spirit of harambee should inspire us to continue building the nation.

Shifted locations of work from public places to the privacy of our homes should not water down our efforts to nurture the youth and children. A society that invests in the future is one that trains its young ones today.

This work needs to continue today as we adapt to the inalienable role technology now plays in our society and education experiences.  The future of reading and work is here. We have arrived at the virtual and digital horizons of the 21st Century.

 

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Dr Makokha teaches Literature and Theatre at Kenyatta University