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Computer Studies Getting Popular With Teachers

By David Aduda, The Nation (Nairobi), 4 September 2000

Nairobi - Some 200 teachers completed information technology courses last week at the African Virtual University based at Kenyatta University.

The teachers, drawn from all parts of the country, went through various courses, including introduction and advanced computer literacy, introduction and advanced Internet.

They were also taken through a programme for teaching - Toolkit for Primary Education - which helps children to learn English, mathematics and sciences effectively. The programme has been developed by the university.

The director of the AVU, Dr Magdalene Juma, said the course was started last year to equip teachers with skills to handle computer education in schools. Computer education is now an examinable subject at Form Four. Many primary schools currently offer the course although it is not examined at that level.

"Our objective is to upgrade teachers' skills so that they can effectively handle the subjects in schools and improve the quality of education," she said.

"As change agents, teachers ought to be at the cutting edge by being able to use and manipulate modern technologies," Dr Juma added.

Although computer studies are an examinable subject at Form Four, few teachers have been trained on the subject. Schools, therefore, depend on hired personnel to teach the subject, most of whom are not professionals in classroom delivery.

At another level, the course provides the teachers with skills that can help them get into private business, particularly at this time of retrenchment.

Significantly, computer knowledge offers teachers an opportunity to do research and access information that is not easily available.

The registrar of Kenyatta University, Dr Gabriel Katana, who represented Vice-Chancellor George Eshiwani at the close of the training programme, said computer knowledge was critical for proper record-keeping in schools, whether the records regard academic performance, enrolment and participation rates, syllabus coverage and financial transactions.

Dr Katana said computer studies made learning interesting and exciting for students, and was thus useful in improving the quality of teaching and performance in national examinations.

Schools were urged to introduce or strengthen computer studies to equip students with marketable skills.

The director of Kenya Education Staff Institute (Kesi), Mr. John Lodiaga underscored the need for computer literacy, saying it was the surest way of narrowing the digital divide.

Information technology, particularly the Internet and e-mail facilities, he said, were vital in promoting life-long education, which is critical for socio- economic and political progress.

It was also useful in curbing the spread of HIV/Aids, which threatens to wipe out the gains made in all sectors of the economy.

Like other courses offered by AVU, Dr Juma said the teachers' programme was conducted in three ways - live transmissions of lessons by experts in America and Europe via satellite, taped lessons and actual classroom teaching. There were several practical lessons to provide the learners with hands-on experience on the subject.

Teachers interviewed expressed satisfaction with the course, saying it had initiated them into information technology and they were now able to communicate easily using the Internet and e-mail facilities.

"With these skills, I can now start my own business and earn a living," said a teacher.

The Computer Systems and Applications course is one of several programmes offered by the AVU, that currently has sites in 25 universities. AVU is a form of distance learning that involves dissemination of subject content through satellite and Internet technologies.

Started in 1997 on a pilot basis, the AVU has been offering certificate- based courses in engineering, information technology, accounting, marketing and purchasing.

It is now set for the operational phase, and will offer degree programmes as from next year. A regional office has been established in Nairobi, which will coordinate the programmes in liaison with the international office at the World Bank in Washington.

Copyright 2000 The Nation. Distributed by allAfrica.com. For information about the content or for permission to redistribute, publish or use for broadcast, contact the publisher.