News in 2015

December 2015

A farewell to 2015

As an eventful year comes to an end, iMlango continues to provide access to important learning resources as students prepare for the short break.
The iMlango field team conducted 90 interviews with head teachers or iMlango champions, to understand in greater detail how they were delivering after school clubs that provide additional time on the learning platform for students.
We continued to progress the Community Internet Sustainability Initiative and conducted surveys at 6 schools to understand if it would be supported by local merchants, as well as the wider community.
The learning platform now has even more content, with an additional 30 African Storybook stories available in Swahili being added this month, further supporting the students’ literacy development. We’re also continuing to work with our content partner, Raising Voices, to deliver additional Life Skills content for teachers and students.
The team travelled to a large number of communities to explore the possibility of using conditional payments to improve school attendance, resulting in them meeting with over 50 merchants.
We have seen numerous success stories emerge from students who attribute their motivation in attending school and improved performance to the programme - keep your eyes peeled for these as they’ll be uploaded to the website over the coming weeks. Schools have also expressed their gratitude in being part of this programme.
Moving into 2016, we look forward to the new school admissions and class one students who will be issued with Attendance Monitoring smart cards and ushered into our exciting programme. We will be utilising our new Registration App that has been developed for the Attendance Monitoring tablet, which improves the speed and efficiency of the sometimes complicated new student registration process.
From all at iMlango, we would like to thank you for your support and wish you a very Happy New Year!
 
 
November 2015

New Platform Content & the Community Internet Sustainability Initiative

As the end of the year approaches, students and teachers were preparing for the important national exams, while continuing to access the learning platform to help with their teaching and studies.
There is now even more content on the learning platform, as we have added new Life Skills content in the form of the ‘Good Schools Toolkit’ by Raising Voices, which educates the teachers and students on how to introduce a happy and productive environment in the school. There was also the addition of various new eBooks for standards 3, 4 and 5. These eBooks are in addition to the African Storybook stories that are already available on the platform.
Many teachers informed us of an increase in pupil attendance due to the growing anticipation of new content being launched on the learning platform. It’s clear to see that iMlango has certainly become an integral and important part of these students’ daily lives.
Another interesting observation is that digital attendance monitoring, popularly known amongst the students as “sQuidding”, is now so ingrained in the schools and has become routine for the students in the morning and afternoon. As there are many schools who experience power outages and rationing, we sourced and distributed solar chargers for the attendance monitoring tablets to address this issue - so attendance can always be taken, even if there’s no power.
We have also initiated the first phase of our Community Internet Sustainability Initiative, which will provide iMlango communities near the schools with the ability to access the internet via their own mobile phones, or via the school’s PCs, using iMlango’s satellite broadband connectivity.
We were honoured to have been part of the 5th Annual mEducation Alliance symposium late last month which was held in Washington D.C. The 3 day event brought together over 200 participants from +100 organisations from around the world. The symposium is designed to facilitate knowledge exchange and networking with the main focus being the use of technology in education to support the Post-2015 SDG (Sustainable Development Goals).
As a presenter and exhibitor at this year’s symposium, we had the opportunity to showcase our programme to delegates and a team of experts. It was another great event and we look forward to being a part of next year’s symposium as well.
Lastly, we received a message from Daniel K. Sadikiel, a teacher at one of our schools and a member of our community, which illustrates the impact the programme is having here in Kenya.
“A.I.C. Na manga primary school is really proud of iMlango. The programme has really been of help to learners and the school at large. Most of the learners who've never used a computer are now very proud of themselves. Maths-whizz has made most of our learners interested in learning due to the practicality of the lessons. This has improved the school attendance.”
Until next time,
The iMlango team
 
 
October 2015

A Child’s Natural Thirst for Knowledge

Schools have reopened after the teachers’ strike, students are back in the classroom, and the iMlango team have delivered a raft of new educational content on the learning platform. It’s certainly been a busy month for all involved. We know from the community messages that we had received during the strike how important iMlango is to the students and teachers, and how excited they were to get back in the classroom.
Early feedback on Q-Files, the online encyclopaedia delivered through the learning platform, has shown the power of ICT in delivering engaging, dynamic content and encouraging enquiry based learning - feeding a child’s natural thirst for knowledge. Collectively, in its launch phase, students have spent over 125 hours accessing Q-Files content. You can learn more about iMlango’s partnership with Q-Files here.
During one of our regular school visits, we were approached by a group of students who informed us that they had finished reading all of the African Story eBooks available on the platform, and that they demanded more! We listened to their request and responded by delivering an additional 43 African focussed eBooks available for the students to read in English, and an additional 30 available in Swahili.
We also launched the programme’s first literacy quiz on the learning platform this month. The quiz has been written by education specialists and enables students to interact with the quiz, capturing their responses and providing near real-time data for the programme. The quiz has been designed to encourage participation and engagement from all students, from multiple standards (year groups).
There are two quizzes, one aimed at standards 1-3 and one aimed at 4-7. The quiz aimed at standards 1-3 utilises audio questions as many of the students accessing the quiz are not able to read. For standards 4-7, the quiz has been developed without audio assistance, and the questions get progressively harder, lasting for a total of 40 minutes. For more information on the iMlango learning platform and digital learning content, please contact us.
Until next time,
The iMlango team
 
 
September 2015

The Importance of Teamwork

There have been delays in getting children back into school because of the continuing teachers’ strike. Even so, we are delighted that many schools were able to provide some access during this time to iMlango learning tools, with school clubs having access to the PCs and Internet.
The iMlango consortium members came together in Mombasa for a training session and to build further on our team effort. Following the two days, the field teams came away with better understanding of the various technologies being deployed and how to troubleshoot if there are problems.
We have now reached the important transition in iMlango, from installation to intervention management as the teacher training is largely complete, and the sQuid Kenya field team are focusing on ensuring all aspects of the programme are making good progress, supported by Whizz field officers providing the specialist support for Maths tutoring. There are some exciting new developments in the learning content with more stories from African Storybook and we expect some further releases in October and November.
In September we have also been investigating how we can twin the iMlango schools UK Primary Schools, and we are grateful to some of Kajiado county Schools for working with us and giving helpful inputs. More of this later in the year.
Lastly, we were delighted to be able to introduce our Girls’ Education Challenge colleagues from Discovery to one of the iMlango schools in Kajiado. On our visit it was inspiring to see the Maths Whizz whole class tutoring being taught to the class, and the enthusiastic way this school, like so many others, is embracing all the technology - including the attendance system - which is helping to encourage better attendance at school with the help of the community and the teachers. The motto of the school is ‘Strive to excel’.
 
 
August 2015

School holidays, community feedback and ToT’s

Although August is a month marked by the schools breaking up for the holidays, the iMlango team were still working hard on the ground to ensure the programme didn’t lose momentum. This month was all about teacher training and receiving community feedback on the programme, and in particular, how it has helped families and their children.
As community engagement is so important to the success of iMlango, we couldn’t wait to hear the views of the teachers, parents and the pupils. So, we decided to hit the ground and find out if it had a positive impact on the families of the pupils. Some of the responses we received from the parents were extremely positive; they couldn’t be more grateful for the impact that it is having on their children, as the programme has helped motivate them to attend school every day. Some even stated that their children’s school performance had dramatically improved since the inception of the iMlango program, which is extremely pleasing to hear. You can read some of the messages sent in from the teachers, families and the wider community here >
August was also important as it was the month in which the ToT’s (Training of Trainers) could now impart the knowledge and experience gained from the programme in the previous school term, back to the teachers in their respective schools. We believe the teachers are now well equipped with the required ICT skills necessary in building their capacity to improve learning outcomes for the pupils. The teachers are also now in a better position to not only gain access to online learning resources through the iMlango portal, but also incorporate a wide range of resources from the portal for their day to day teaching lessons.
Finally, make sure to look out for our ‘Summary of Baseline study’ report which we’ll be releasing soon…
 
 
July 2015

The Girls’ Education Challenge come to visit

We were visited by the team from the Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) last month - which is part of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) - for the formal review of the programme. Accompanied by the field team, they visited a number of iMlango schools located in the Kajaido area, to see the progress and impact the programme’s had on the schools, teachers, and of course, students. It was really great to have the GEC team on the ground in Kenya, and we welcomed their recommendations, which were all very constructive and positively received from the entire team.
The GEC team were able to view first-hand the completed school implementations, attendance monitoring in action and the students accessing the iMlango learning platform in class. Chris Wallace, the GEC programme lead, stated that the “iMlango project has successfully managed to put in place the three Cs of Connectivity, Content and Capacity.” Chris has also written a very informative blog post on her time in Kenya: iMlango Connecting Students in Rural Kenya, which gives further insight into the programme. Many thanks to Chris, her team and the GEC - their insight and guidance will allow us to improve the programme’s impact on the many girls in our schools.
So, as the dust settles on their visit, we now have an opportunity to reflect and act to improve the programme, which is now impacting over 130,000 schoolchildren in Kenya.
But, as always, there’s still a lot of work to do. Ensuring that the schools remain engaged is no easy task. We have a number of regional coordinators that are in constant communication with the schools to stay on top of any issues that may arise.
Moving into July, the field team held a number of insightful meetings with communities across the Kajaido region. The meetings were arranged to discuss a potential enhancement to the programme that involves providing financial incentives, and measuring their impact on the students’ educational outcomes.
Community engagement is extremely important to us – without their help, it would be a near impossible task to make a significant, sustainable change in the schools.
Until next time,
The iMlango team
 
 
June 2015

Q-files children’s encyclopedia and African Storybook stories added to the iMlango learning platform

We are extremely pleased to announce that Q-files, the online encyclopedia designed for children, and African Storybook stories, a collection of stories specially created for African children, have been added to the iMlango learning platform. The online encyclopedia and collection of stories are available to all 195 iMlango schools and is accessible via the school PC equipment.
The addition of Q-files brings further engaging and dynamic learning content to the learning platform, as well as enabling students to source information in an exploratory way. The online encyclopedia is home to many intriguing and important subjects such as: history, science, geography, culture and technology. The content is constantly updated by education professionals and includes pictures and videos that enhance the delivery of the content for students. The pages in Q-files have been written by specialist children's writers, working alongside an experienced editorial team, and every page has been submitted to the detailed scrutiny of the team, ensuring high standards of accuracy and reliability.
Access to engaging learning content is imperative to improving learning outcomes and in particular, literacy. African Storybook stories provides students with access to literature when books are not available. The stories can be accessed in either English or Swahili, promoting multilingual development and are presented with beautiful illustrations. The African Storybook Project is an initiative of Saide, a registered Non-Profit Organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Their vision is for all African children to have enough stories in a language familiar to them to practise reading, and to learn to love reading.
The addition of Q-files and African Storybook stories has been extremely well received by the schools and their students. If you are a provider of digital learning content would like to get in touch with iMlango, you can contact us here.
 
 
May 2015

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

The following is a post from Svetlana Tarassova – Whizz Education.

Dear iMlango followers!

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

iMlango teams have been busy planting!
As you can see the project is in its full roll out phase. After the successful completion of ‘Training of the Trainer’ courses, our Trainers, who are full time practicing iMlango teachers in participating schools, are now busy transferring to other teachers their knowledge, experience, enthusiasm and most importantly passion to make the difference. “I want to become the best iMlango champion in Kenya” – is the phrase we so happily receive as feedback. The sceptic inside you may exclaim: “Oh, those are just empty words. I’ve heard them so many times but never seen anything happen”. Well, you are in for the surprise of a lifetime. The iMlango programme, supported by DFID, is where a professionally thought through process, based on vast experience and knowledge of running successful implementations comes into play.
Remember “judgment by the seeds you plant”? iMlango trainers and teachers are empowered with technology, knowledge and tools to make a difference. The ability to facilitate individualised learning for each of their pupils through scheduling, monitoring and acting upon live accurate data allows progress. True professionalism from each of our teachers, who are vigorously supported by their head teachers, will find ways to overcome challenges. During the training the ethos was formed that if you meet an obstacle you go left, right, over and under it. They are on their way to succeed in never closing that door to the House of Knowledge, in ensuring that technology enables learning and that each child is given an opportunity to learn according to his/her individual ability and need.
Before we can harvest, we still need to grow. We need to foster with love, care and determination. iMlango teams are on the ground, they are in the classrooms, in the labs as well as in the offices around the world supporting this programme, each step of the way. There is a lot of work ahead of us, but together we will make a difference in the classrooms and provide a better education for Kenyan children.
 
 
April 2015

The iMlango Report

The following is a post from, Changez Ndzai, Vetting Officer at Camara Kenya.
iMlango is still making huge strides here in Kenya. The month of April is usually a month where most schools here in Kenya break for holidays but this hasn't stopped the project from moving forward. The Camara Kenya team, has been on the move to make sure every aspect of the project, especially technical proportions, are running smoothly and according to plan. In Kilifi county, about five schools have already been signed off. This means these schools are now meeting all iMlango requirements.
Progress is still being made in other counties like Kajiado, Makueni and Uasin Gishu, and our technical team has been busy in the field doing much of the installation works. This means by the beginning of the second term, everything will be in place for the students to begin training. Camara and Whizz in the past two weeks have been organising and conducting ‘Training of Trainers’ workshops, both here in Mombasa and Nairobi respectively. About seventy one (TOTs) have been undergoing training, and are expected to be able to pass on this knowledge and train other teachers back in their respective schools after the April holiday.
I got to spend some time with some of the teachers who were attending the one week training workshop here in our Mombasa Hub, and I managed to ask them what were they were expecting to get out of the training. There is a great excitement and happiness among the participants to be part of this programme as well as it being an opportunity to develop their IT skills. iMlango will shine a technological light on most of the schools that are situated in remote areas, where they would not usually be accustomed to such resources. It is a special gift to these schools, as one of the teacher’s explained to me, they never knew when this type of technology would reach them in the remote areas out of town as computers and other related technologies are more commonly found in towns.
Also, the training has given them another developing platform, opening their eyes to new technological experiences. Not only will this help them teach the school curriculum at a new interactive level but they also will be apply these skills in their day to day activities as society is also changing in accordance with technology. So this means iMlango will have a huge impact, not only for the students but also for the teachers and their communities.
 
 
March 2015

195 primary schools equipped with eLearning centres

The following is a post from Camara Education.
We are delighted to announce that Camara Kenya have now completed all computer dispatches for the iMlango programme, with fully functioning computer labs now set up in all 195 schools.
The Camara Kenya team have worked tirelessly over the last few months preparing the schools for the arrival of the computers. Setting up the classrooms has been no easy task with schools needing their electricity supply checked, new wiring put in place and in some cases furniture, such as chairs and tables sourced. Once the schools were fully prepared the team set out dispatching the IT equipment, often travelling long distances to reach rural schools across several regions in Kenya. Camara Kenya’s work however has only just began, with their next task to provide instruction for over 2000 teachers, so that they may be able to use the technology effectively in their classrooms.
Several pilot schools in the iMlango programme are also now fully operational, with the remainder of the schools due to start up later this year. Class and school attendance are being tracked and reported on in these schools. Even more groundbreaking, is that each child’s performance is being monitored, allowing for the first time, live progress monitoring across the entire intervention.
“The introduction of iMlango has come at the right time especially during this time of technology in the 21century. By integrating ICT in schools, it will help learning to be real and enjoyable reducing truancy in schools. Teachers will also get the opportunity to get more information from the internet thus giving pupils the content they need.” Monicah Robi Mokenye, Kenyan teacher
The iMlango programme is a hugely exciting initiative and one which we are extremely proud to be part of. It is a shining example of what can be achieved when charities and businesses come together.
 
 
March 2015

Final school installations & the importance of attendance

As the programme continues to gain momentum, the field team worked tirelessly to ensure the last of the school installs were completed. The schools, located in the Uasin Gishu region, were visited by the team to network the ICT equipment, complete the installations and to answer any remaining questions. Completing the deployment and installation phase is a significant milestone for the programme and for everyone involved – well done all!
It hasn’t all been plain sailing this month though. It’s been a real challenge to obtain consistent attendance records as a few schools were recording attendance for some days and not for others. To counter this, the field team had to revisit the schools to educate the teachers, with the aim to ensure they were engaged and understood the importance of taking attendance. We’ve seen excellent progress as we’re now up to 120,000+ children who regularly use their smartcard for attendance – an excellent achievement so far.
It’s extremely important that the teachers learn to take attendance every day, as we have already seen how it can be used for reasons beyond the classroom. We were informed via a message that was posted on our online community wall, that a teacher – after hearing a news report of children being kidnapped in the Sultan Hamud area on the radio - had used the attendance tablet and smartcards to check whether or not his students had been kidnapped. Accompanied by the children’s parents, the teacher used the technology to take attendance and identify who was absent - and potentially in danger. Before iMlango, the teacher wouldn’t have had any knowledge of who was - or should have been - in their class…
 
 
February 2015

UNESCO Mobile Learning Week Symposium

We were honoured to attend the UNESCO Mobile Learning Week Symposium this month. The event was held in Paris, France, and brought together the leading industry minds to explore the topic of leveraging technology to empower women and girls. The event was attended by 1000+ participants, included 100+ speakers and 70+ countries were represented. The opening keynote speaker, Cherie Blair, delivered a powerful talk to begin the event, and the subject of innovative technology was discussed in great detail by experts in a series of workshops and talks.
We were delighted to also be given an exhibition stand for the duration of the event, which we used to promote the programme, demo the technology and provide more information to interested individuals. UNESCO Mobile Learning Week provided an excellent opportunity for us to engage with other organisations that are operating programmes throughout the world, and to hear many of the fascinating thought-provoking talks from the experts. We had a great time at the event and want to thank UNESCO for inviting us!
Meanwhile, on the ground in Kenya, iMlango continued its rollout into the schools. Teachers attended a 5 day instruction on iMlango, which went through attendance monitoring and the interactive learning platform. At the end of the 5 days, the teachers were awarded a certificate of instruction. And the training is definitely working as the daily attendance transactions are increasing, day by day. We’re now up to 255,000 transactions a week – keep your eyes peeled for the data reports, they’re coming.
 
 
January 2015

iMlango is live!

After a year of laying the foundations for the programme, hard work and implementing the sophisticated infrastructure behind the scenes, we’re very pleased to announce that iMlango is now live. To prepare everything for the launch, the field team worked tirelessly to ensure that all 195 school packs - which contained the attendance cards, tablets and user manuals - were packed away and distributed to the schools. The packs were distributed using a series of security trucks, with the first truckload going to the Uasin Gishu County schools. Once the packs are delivered to the schools, the teachers will use sQuid’s innovative Check-in App and contactless smart cards to record the students’ attendance. This creates a digital profile for the student which is stored in the iMlango database – the profile includes attendance, education performance and learning platform data. Watch out for our first data reports, which will be coming soon…