Digital skills will help tackle unemployment

Monday, October 18th, 2021 00:00 |
A pupil with visual impairment in a computer class. Photo/Courtesy

Digital skills among school and college leavers can enable the youth to benefit from online work and cut unemployment— earning them revenue even as they seek and develop bigger visions, experts now say, highlighting the need to teach students in primary and secondary schools these critical skills.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also shown that working from home as well as moonlighting can earn hefty incomes to the youths in Kenya and globally, keeping them busy as well as making them financially independent.

“Online work opportunities that include digital marketing and search engine optimisation provides income to an estimated 282,000 people while both data entry and article writing have over 500,000 people engaged,” observed Maureen Mbaka, Cabinet Administrative Secretary (CAS) in the Ministry of Information and Computer Technology (ICT) Innovation and Youth Affairs in a recent event.

According to Mbaka, Kenyan youth are also earning from academic, scientific writing, transcription and virtual assistants’ online jobs.

Currently, the ICT ministry has created the Ajira Digital programme whose aim is to enable the youth benefit from online work, as well as bridge the gap between skills demand and unemployment among the youth.

“Earning from online writing has helped me fund my university education as well pay bills.

It has also allowed me to make some savings that have allowed me to start a second-hand clothes business,” said James Ongati, a fourth year Bachelor of Education student at a local university.

According to a recent study by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), at least 1.2 million Kenyans work online, earning an average of Sh20,773.

The National Study on Digital and Digitally Enabled Work in Kenya, which was commissioned by the ICT Ministry, revealed that the majority of online workers at 461,523 are digital marketers followed by website articles and academic writers at 266,402 and 168,022 respectively. 

Mbaka noted that in a bid to meet the urgent need for expanded education, training and employment opportunities for young people aged 10 to 24, the ICT ministry has also launched the Digital Literacy Programme to entrench ICTs in teaching, learning and equipping learners with the 21st century learning skills.

This comes at a time when there is increased investment and interest by the public and private players in boosting ICT in Kenyan schools

Connect 90 rural schools

Recently, Nokia, the global telecoms firm, in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), Safaricom and the Ministry of Education launched a programme to connect close to 90 schools to the internet in Kenya.

Rural and disadvantaged urban settlements are also benefiting from the initiative, which aims to support digitalisation and digital literacy among the youth.

The connected schools are spread across rural and informal urban settlements in Kenya, serving an estimated 32,670 students.

Good internet connectivity was highlighted during the school closures occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The imminent digital divide allowed well-off children to continue schooling online while their rural counterparts were deprived of this critical service.

Schools equipped with a broadband connection, digital devices and teacher training will now be able to make better use of video communication, digital curricula and online content, thereby improving digital literacy and skills among school children.

“This connectivity will ensure schools in underprivileged areas are not left behind, and also increase digital literacy.

Students will also be able to reap the benefits of a digital society,” observed Peter Ndegwa, Safaricom Chief executive officer.

According to Mania Zaman, Unicef Kenya Country representative, children have a right to access quality education whenever they are, yet for too long, the digital divide has prevented disadvantaged children from enjoying the same benefits as their connected peers.

Through the ICT Authority, the ministry is developing a device adaptable for home schooling in the Kenyan context.

This work is being carried out by public universities and Kenyan innovators using existing innovation and incubation centres.

Mbaka announced that the ministry of ICT has also established an e-learning portal to facilitate teachers conducting lessons remotely to harmonize the use of Digital Literacy Programme (DLP) devices in facilitating learning from home.

“To date, 21,638 public primary schools of the contracted 21,729 schools under DLP Phase One, have been supplied with 1,169,000 devices while partial installations of 1,304 new schools are ongoing under phase One,” announced the CAS.

A total of 218,253 teachers have received training on the Competency Based Curriculum, at least 331,000 teachers have been trained on ICT integration and device utilisation, a total of 19,042 public primary schools have been connected to power by national grid while 3,239 public primary schools have been connected to power by solar.

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