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Season 3, Round 3: RESULTS!

The final round of the hit Arimus Media TV show schools’ spin-off, the iMlango Junior Debater’s Contest, is now complete, and the results are in!

As ever, the children have worked as teams to respond to the competition’s Round 3 motion, boosting their literacy, communication and research skills, as well as enhancing their self-esteem. In Round 3, 14 groups (each of 5 children, all from Standard 7) responded, representing an incredible 93%. The competition to be overall season winner was hot!

The motion facing the students this time was: “Gender equality is important - what can we do to ensure we achieve it? Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Use specific reasons and details to support your answer.”

Challengebreakers, from Mwangutwa Primary School strongly agreed, citing the work of great women such as conservationist Wangari Maathai and Kenya’s first lady, Margaret Kenyatta, and the kindness of Mother Teresa. “We want to say that every living person should strive to support gender equality” they postulated, although while they gave thanks that pro-gender equality legislation is now in place, they felt its implementation is lacking. They also warned against “placing unqualified personnel in positions in the name of gender equality”, stating that balance is needed. They summed up: “In a nut-shell, gender equality is important and through thick and thin we should strive towards its realisation for the world to be a better dwelling place”.

Seagul group, from Boarder Farm Primary School argued very strongly in favour: “Women should no longer be looked at as inferior to men and weak sex of human race, everyone is equal. There is need for removal of obstacles hindering women's participation in public and private life through ensuring women's full equal share in economic, social, cultural and political decision making because this is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice”.

They stated that what is needed is law change to underpin rejection of traditional norms oppressing women and girls, alongside poverty-alleviating Government policies, for instance the introduction of microloans for carrying out income-generating businesses. They concluded: “We appreciate the government's effort to provide free primary and secondary education to all without favour of gender”

Students participating in the iMlango Junior Debaters Contest

Students participating in the iMlango Junior Debaters Contest

Bata group, from Mwangutwa Primary School did not deviate. “Gender based discrimination against female children is pervasive across the world. It is seen in all the strata of society … the female child has been treated inferior to the male child and this is deeply engraved in their mind”. However, “sustainable development relies on ending discrimination towards women and providing equal opportunities for education and employment”.

They listed “twelve steps in order to achieve gender equality in our lifetimes”, which included “make education gender sensitive; raise aspirations of girls and their parents; get women into power”. They concluded that “in this world you may not know what is going to happen when you try, but … as we know unity is strength, and we are quite sure that we together as a country can achieve gender equality”.

Once again, the judges were very impressed by all the teams, but there had to be a winner. So in reverse order are:

Challengebreakers, with a fantastic 70%,

Seagul, with an incredible 75%,

And in first place, with a magnificent score of 78%....


Huge congratulations to Bata, and to ALL the competing teams who made such a valuable contribution to the contest. Watch this space for details of the prize-giving ceremony, coming soon!

 Until next time,

The iMlango Team


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Season 3, Round 2: The results are in!

The iMlango Junior Debater’s Contest is the iMlango schools’ spin-off of the acclaimed Great Debaters Contest and is run in partnership with the Kenyan television show’s producers, Arimus Media. The contest aims to help improve literacy, communication and research skills, general knowledge, as well as teamwork and pupil self-esteem.

Season 3 of the contest has kicked off with vigour, and the first two rounds have now taken place.

In Round 1, 724 groups (each of 5 children, all from Standard 7) responded. This was the greatest number of respondents ever in a Round 1 (452 in Season 1, and 515 in Season 2), with the top 100 groups progressing to Round 2.

The motion that the students were challenged to debate was: “Education is key to success. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Use specific reasons and details to support your answer”.

In joint first place were Pigeon group, from Kwaupanga Primary School, and Goat group from Bamba primary school, both from Kilifi County, and both with a phenomenal score of 82%.

Pigeon group asserted that education ‘absolutely is’ the key to success, enabling a ‘high salary and an enjoyable career’, allowing you to fulfil your dreams and goals. They argued that enhancing your knowledge can make you independent and confident in the 21st century: ‘Your mind is the key that can open any door for you’.

They concluded that Governments invest time and money in education, as they understand its positive impact on their country.

Goat group concurred, stating that education is the way to obtain desirable employment and to experience upward mobility, happiness and prosperity, for example buying a Ferrari!

They added that education helps social development: ‘An educated person is well aware of his/her responsibilities towards society’, and ‘Education contributes in social harmony and peace’ and is thus ‘the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world’.

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In Round 2, the motion was: “The cutting down of trees is damaging to the environment. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Use specific reasons and details to support your answer”.

In this round, a total of 68 groups responded, making it our best Round 2 so far. In first place was Bata group from Mwangutwa Primary School (also from Kilifi County) with a fantastic score of 70%, and in second place, making an appearance again, was Goat group from Bamba Primary School, with 68%.

Bata agreed with the statement. They examined the benefits of trees, such as maintaining the ecological balance and helping to reduce global warming, and the harm caused by cutting them down: ‘If we continue to cut trees at a larger extent then it will … create an unstable atmosphere which will lead to destruction of the earth’.

They concluded that ‘we as citizens of our country should plant trees and encourage young people … to understand the need for planting trees to save the future generation’.

Goat group agreed with the motion, on the basis that ‘from trees we get life-giving air (oxygen)’ and that trees and forests meet many of our needs. They postulated that ‘The existence of forests today is in danger. Consequently, human life is also in danger.’

They discussed floods and droughts, global warming, depletion of water resources and the extinction of species, concluding with the call to arms: ‘Let’s save trees – cut 1, plant 2’.

All the children impressed with their compelling and well thought out arguments. The top 15 groups in Round 2 have progressed to Round 3: congratulations and good luck to all competing debaters! We will keep you updated as the contest progresses…

Until next time,

The iMlango Team

iMlango and the National Education Policy

In the Ministry of Education (MoE) 2015 Education for All national review, Sub Saharan Africa was found to be one of the lowest achieving regions. Kenya is one of the countries that has sought to rectify this situation in order to support its underprivileged communities and achieve its socio-economic aspirations. To this end, the Government is working towards achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of Universal Primary Education. Although there are challenges, through the Free Primary Education initiative (originally introduced in 2003), the Government has achieved much regarding stabilisation of enrolment, retention and transition of pupils.

Teachers learning how to use  iMlango -provided content and internet connectivity to teach reading using Government tablets

Teachers learning how to use iMlango-provided content and internet connectivity to teach reading using Government tablets

The question that education stakeholders are now asking is: are our children learning? There has been much debate about desired learning outcomes, with the two main indicators of quality education being literacy and numeracy. Students who can read fluently, with comprehension at their grade level, and who have numeracy with automaticity, are considered to be receiving better quality education.

However, between 2005 and 2010, several studies were carried out by education quality monitoring groups which painted a bleak picture of student competencies in literacy and numeracy: the Uwezo 2010 Annual Learning Assessment (Kenya) concluded that “The state of literacy and numeracy skills of children in Kenya is grim!”. It found that:

1.    Two out of three Class 2 children in Kenya cannot read this paragraph:

Ali and Hassan are friends.
They play each day.
Ali can run fast.
He is in the school team.

2.    Twenty percent of 6-16 year old children who can do real-life mathematics (e.g. as used when buying various quantities of different fruit), are not able to do abstract mathematics of the same difficulty level, for instance sums such as: 

 32+24 =           60+15=            24+71=            46-24=             84-53=

The full study can be found here:

This prompted the Government, supported by development partners, to carry out a Primary Math and Reading Initiative (PRIMR) baseline study across four counties, to try to establish the root cause of the failures. They discovered that:

  • Teacher training curriculum in Kenya was lacking the component on reading 

  • Early grade English and Kiswahili curriculum being offered was language based rather than reading

  • Teacher support systems in classroom teaching were dysfunctional

  • There was gross lack of supplementary books to support the efforts to teach reading

  • The student textbook ration did not allow for personalised teaching of reading

In more recent years, there has been a multi-pronged approach to rectifying this situation.

In 2015, the MoE in conjunction with US international development agency USAID launched Tusome (‘Let’s Read’ in Kiswahili), an ambitious early grade reading programme. Addressing the issues highlighted by the PRIMR study, teachers and other education stakeholders report a dramatic improvement in reading outcomes in Kenyan primary schools since its deployment.

As part of the Government’s plan to integrate ICT into education, the Digital Literacy Programme was launched in 2013. Kenyan primary schools were connected to the national electricity grid and each school provided with digital learning devices (tablets) and content.

Then again in 2015, the iMlango programme was rolled out by a consortium of like-minded partners to support the Government’s efforts to promote literacy and numeracy by providing:

  • Digital content on the ‘learning platform’, approved by the Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development (KICD)

  • Digital story books

  • Exam revision materials

  • Teacher in service training and classroom support

  • Real time learning outcomes assessment using Early Grade Readers Assessment (EGRA)

and additionally supporting:

  • Enhanced role of Boards of Management (BoM) and Parents Associations (PA)

  • Greater parental involvement

One of iMlango’s literacy-boosting activities is its spin-off of the acclaimed Kenyan television show The Great Debaters Contest, the iMlango Junior Debaters Contest. Run in partnership with the show’s producers, Arimus Media, the contest aims to help improve literacy, communication and research skills, general knowledge, as well as teamwork and pupil self-esteem.

Children taking part in the iMlango Junior Debaters Contest

Children taking part in the iMlango Junior Debaters Contest

In parallel to promoting literacy and numeracy, iMlango has pioneered a ground-breaking innovation in digital school attendance monitoring, and is directly addressing the challenge of gender mainstreaming in education. iMlango is also reaching out to support economically marginalised parents with its microloans initiative, with a view not only to supporting businesses, but ultimately to enhancing the loan recipients’ children’s educational outcomes.

iMlango’s implementation has led to marked improvements in eLearning for both teachers and pupils. Teachers’ pedagogical knowledge, skills and attitudes in using ICT in school are enhanced, as evidenced by the number of teachers logging into the ICT content portal, using the whole class teaching approach and supporting learners in the computer lab. Their ongoing professional development, as well as continued classroom support by field officers and constant engagement during lunchtimes have all been key contributors.

Whole class learning

Whole class learning

Supporting pupils in the computer lab

Supporting pupils in the computer lab

iMlango schools are also showing significant improvements in their KCPE (Kenya Certificate for Primary Education) mean scores, showing a strong correlation between pupils’ increased time accessing the learning platform and their learning outcomes. For example:

Mwadodo Primary School, Kilifi County

Population: 717 pupils, of whom 354 girls and 363 boys

Overall mean KCPE scores:

  • 2016    220.9

  • 2017    244.69 (increment of 23.79 points on previous year)

  • 2018    261.45 (increment of 16.76 points on previous year)

 It is clear to see that the ethos of iMlango is in line with Government literacy and numeracy improvement policies, and that results since its inception three years ago show that it is a valuable tool for achieving excellent 21st century educational outcomes for girls and boys in Kenya’s more challenged regions.

By: Rabasa Onyango, iMlango Education Advisor