eLearning Africa (Berlin)

16 May 2013

Kenya: A Spider Story - How a Study Circle Becomes an Agent of Change

press release

Let us begin by telling a story from a fishermen's study circle in Kenya. CORDIO (Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean East Africa) is an organization based in Mombasa, Kenya, that focuses on marine ecology and capacity building. This project using study circles is funded by Spider and its focus on education, empowerment and livelihoods strengthens the sustainability of both human and natural resources.

Bakari Hamadi Koye is a 66-year-old fisherman and a member of the Mwaembe Beach Management Unit. Bakari was not fortunate enough to attain formal education in his early days. His parents did not see the value of education but preferred training their children, particularly boys, in fishing skills, farming, and to some extent livestock keeping. Bakari grew up and went into fishing full time to make a living and to provide for his family.

Before the emergence of mobile phones he used to go to government offices or phone booths to make calls. In the Mkunguni village where he comes from only the rich used to have mobile phones and he could not afford his own. By the end of 2011, he finally felt he could save enough to buy his own handset. As part of the CORDIO project, he asked the trainers to concentrate only on critical buttons that would help him receive and make calls and how to switch it on and off. He has no electricity at home and charges his phone within the neighborhood.

He memorized the use of specific buttons and now he uses the phone to communicate with his family and friends. He also uses the phone to receive money from his children staying away from the village, and for sharing information. He believes mobile phones are better than radios, and he hopes researchers will continue to improve on the device and make it more useful and affordable to many people. He says that the mobile phone helps in information sharing, saving time and money. They are also useful to arrange meetings with fellow fishermen and fish traders. Bakari also pointed out extra things people use mobile phones for, such as doing calculations, and saving money to use when the need arises. In the future, the project hopes that mobile phones will also be used to report illegal fishing activities to the Beach Management Unit chairman, report sea accidents, and arrange rescue and planning meetings. Bakari would be keen to learn these extra applications, given the opportunity.

This project is built on local adaption of the Swedish Folkbildning (people's education) concept that utilizes study circles and participatory learning, and has provided local youth groups and study circles with training in literacy, ICT and various livelihood skills that were defined and requested by the groups themselves.

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The Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider) is a knowledge broker and resource centre for ICT4D based at the Department of Computer and Systems Sciences at Stockholm University. Spider is primarily financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). At Spider we mainly work with projects in three different areas of ICT4E.

Digital Literacy: In order to fully utilize the potential of ICT, sufficient numbers of the population need to have the skills to explore and exploit technological developments. Access to ICT is but the first step in a long process of capacity development, the overall aim of which should be digital inclusion. Some social groups are more ready to acquire digital skills, e.g. young people, students and professionals, while others are likely to fall behind, e.g. the elderly, uneducated and unemployed. A concerted effort must be made for digital literacy at the early stages of education, not least to ensure that the introduction of ICT will narrow rather than widen social inequalities.

Education Management: ICT offers tools and systems that can improve the planning, administration and management of education, at local, regional and national levels. Mobile applications, databases and electronic networks can be used to enable a more efficient management of the education system. Communication tools can help ensure that policies and directives are followed through at all levels of the education system as well as improving its responsiveness to local realities. Many developing countries have an Educational Management Information System (EMIS) in place, and more can be done to explore the educational potential of Mobile for Development (M4D) and Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).

eLearning: ICT enables the development of new forms of learning, such as flexible and collaborative learning, combining innovative technological tools with student-centred pedagogical models. ICT can also be used for more inclusive education, from lifelong learning for adults and training programs for out of school youth, to open courseware and open access to quality education. In a developing country, technological tools must be carefully assessed to fit local circumstances, and use locally relevant content, while paying close attention to financial, social, and cultural contexts.

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