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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

Leading The Way: Empowering Women & Students in iMlango Communities

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iMlango Microloans - empowering women in our school communities

Women in general undoubtedly face greater financial constraints than men, but when empowered with a loan, the businesses they set up tend to thrive. Women who are economically enabled are more likely to send their children to school, with profits from their business being used to pay household bills and help pay for school-related costs, such as uniform.

Since making Microloans available to select iMlango school communities, we have seen more women access the service than men. This is good news for our girl students, as they are seeing female empowerment first hand at home and learning the valuable skills of money-management.


37 secondary schools and over 12,000 students now part of iMlango

This year has seen the addition of secondary schools to the iMlango programme, with 37 schools online with attendance monitoring and the learning platform. Across the four counties, 5,530 Form 1, and 6,968 Form 2 students are now on roll, with the collection of transition data from iMlango primary schools under way.

The students are currently exploring and enjoying boosting their general knowledge using the Q-Files encyclopaedia resources on the iMlango portal at lunchtime and after school clubs.


Leading the way in Kenya…

Back in March, representatives of the Ministry of Education met with iMlango programme partners and shared their plans and objectives for the coming period. In the fore was the recommendation that our education offering should reflect the new Competency Based Curriculum (CBC). There has been uncertainty surrounding the CBC for some time, but the recent appointment of George Magoha as Cabinet Secretary of Education, with his background in this field, has been met with great optimism.

Digital literacy is one of the key competences outlined in the new CBC, while the Government's national ICT policy agenda is to fully integrate ICT into teaching and learning in all education levels. Additionally, the Kenyan government announced its plans of advancing learning outcomes country-wide through ICT by building computer labs in all public schools.

Our iMlango schools are ahead of the game here! The programme is already driving forward the Government’s plans in the Education sector, building digital literacy skills for students by using computers in classrooms and labs to develop important ICT skills, including typing and research skills with Q-Files children’s encyclopedia, and maths development via the Maths Whizz virtual tutor.

Until next time,

The iMlango Team