A consignment of 5,000 laptops were yesterday flown into Kenya from China for distribution to 370 public primary schools across the country.
The arrival of the gadgets came after the Ministry of ICT completed the pilot phase of the Digital Literacy Programme for Class One pupils in public schools, which involved testing laptops and tablets for use as teaching aids.
In his campaign pledge four years ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta promised free laptops. The delay in delivery has been mainly due to procurement wrangles.
ICT secretary Joseph Mucheru said in an interview Thursday the arrival of the 5,000 gadgets marks the official commencement of the free laptops programme.
Another 20,000 devices are expected to arrive by air at the end of this month, followed by another batch that will arrive by sea on a weekly basis in the month of September.
The laptops are being supplied by two consortiums — one led by the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and the other by Moi University — both of which were contracted in early July.
Mr Mucheru said the government has relaxed the requirement that the laptops be assembled locally and is encouraging the institutions that won the tender to supply the devices to import more so as to have all the 1.2 million gadgets manufactured by December.
“While we still expect the consortiums that were awarded the tender to supply the devices to do local assembly, we are encouraging them to import more to have the devices manufactured by December,” Mr Mucheru said.
The decision to assemble the devices locally was billed by the government as one that would lead to creation of jobs and save the country milions of dollars in foreign exchange.
The government’s change of stance, with an eye on next year’s General Election, appears to suggest that it is more concerned by time than the jobs and forex savings.
“Tomorrow (today) we will be receiving 5,000 devices at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). The devices will be distributed to 370 schools. Another batch will be arriving by sea,” said Mr Mucheru.
The devices are preloaded with interactive digital learning content for pupils in Class One and Two in five subjects — Kiswahili, English, maths, science and social studies. The teachers’ laptops, servers and wireless router are additionally are pre-loaded with teacher training curricula on ICT integration, training manuals on ICT and a resource kit for teachers.
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