From Traditional to Tech-savvy: Adapting AI in Kenyan Educational System | EdTech

Picture this: In the heart of rural Kenya, nestled amidst the lush greenery and vibrant wildlife, stands a modest school where Ms. Njeri, a dedicated teacher with years of experience, begins her day with a sense of anticipation. As she prepares to greet her students, she can’t help but marvel at the rapid changes sweeping through the world of education. Gone are the days of chalkboards and dusty textbooks; instead, the classroom buzzes with the energy of innovation and technology.

Ms. Njeri had always believed in the power of education to transform lives, but it wasn’t until recently that she discovered a new ally in her mission: artificial intelligence. With a few clicks and keystrokes, she can now access a wealth of educational resources tailored to the diverse needs of her students. From interactive lesson plans to personalized learning pathways, AI is revolutionizing the way she teaches and the way her students learn.

As technology continues to evolve and transform every aspect of our lives, it is making a huge impact on the education system, especially in Kenya, where brick-and-mortar learning has been the norm for decades. Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the many technological advancements that have emerged as powerful tools, offering an opportunity to enhance the learning experience in schools through innovation. 

As technology continues to revolutionize and reshape the education system, it is critical for not only educators but also the government to understand the importance of AI and examine its role in the delivery and experience of education. This will help learners be equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive in the 21st century.

The current state of AI and foundational education in Kenya reflects a dynamic environment characterized by creative collaboration and evolving strategies to address the various needs of students across the nation.

At the governmental level, the National Exam Council in Kenya has begun exploring the use of AI in developing and administering national exams. Simultaneously, researchers and EdTech organizations are spearheading innovative projects aimed at integrating AI into classrooms around the country.


Alongside the promising development in the use of AI in education, there are also some notable concerns around safety, data privacy, adequate teacher training, and exasperation of existing inequities


This year’s second edition of the March EdTech Mondays Kenya program, hosted by Lilly Bekele-Piper, Ed.M., was centered on AI in education. EdTech Mondays is a monthly show on NTV Kenya, produced by EdTech East Africa and supported by the Mastercard Foundation. The show features different players in the Kenyan EdTech ecosystem.

This episode discussed the promising development in the use of AI in education and the notable concerns around safety, data privacy, adequate teacher training, and the exasperation of existing inequities.



Evans Otieno, a child apprentice at Mtoto News, says that as a student, if he had a magic computer, he would like to first learn AI and robotics.


“I would like to learn AI and robotics if given a magic computer because robotics is much more fun than conventional subjects like math, English, and Kiswahili. AI and robotics help in brainstorming using ChatGPT rather than just being in class.” 


According to him, students find fun in using technology on their phones to find answers 

more than reading from books.


Using AI in teaching and learning


Using AI in education is the need of the hour, and it’s also quite rewarding. AI is a highly evolved educational technology that makes learning, teaching, and administrative tasks more effortless and accessible. Hence, with these new advanced technologies, AI in education is becoming the rising star.


The Government Affairs and Public Policy Lead for Eastern Africa at Google, Michael Murungi, defines AI as a new technology that mimics human processes of intelligence and problem-solving to manage and perform complex tasks and learn at the same time.


Murungi noted that one of the biggest opportunities AI has in education is the ability to personalize learning and the ability for the teacher to curate the learning experience for the child based on the child’s needs in terms of support. 


Al-Amin Ahmed, another child apprentice at Mtoto News who is a student, says incorporating AI learning in the education system would be a fun way of learning for all learners. “If I could think of a couple of ways of using AI in a fun way to help out in my education, that would be through gaming. For example, as children, we love gaming. So it would be great if we could incorporate it into AI learning.” 


Despite advocating for new technology such as AI for learners and educators, one of the two panelists on the show, Felix Malobe, the executive director at STEAMlab Africa, said that safeguarding is the biggest risk at the center of EdTech in education. He said that safeguarding issues apply to privacy, exposure, and data collection.


According to him, AI platforms need to be looked into deeply so that they do not expose learners and young people to a world of misuse of information and data. “Technology is not just AI or machine learning that finds its place in the teaching, learning, and assessment in my classroom. Whether I am teaching mathematics, computer science, or even science,” he said. 


“So my pedagogical approach to steam education includes getting students to think about challenges that they experience in the real world and then bringing the content that I am teaching them into context so that they can develop solutions for such challenges,” he added. 


On his part, the Government Affairs and Public Policy Lead for Eastern Africa at Google, Michael Murungi, said that they have a data protection controller office established to issue guidelines on not only the law but also various sectors of practice, both in schools and even in hospitals.


This is a baseline that ensures that the privacy of learners in schools and also patients in hospitals is protected. 


For parents at home, he said that there is a tool called Family Link that Google came up with to ensure the safety of children as they engage with AI and other evolving new technology. “The family link tool is a technology that we developed at Google for families, for parents who give devices like laptops and mobile phones to children; it pairs the parent’s device with the child’s device. A parent can set the kind of content the child will access.,” he said. 


Mumbe Mwangangi, CEO and co-founder at Nyansapo AI said that AI is a tool but not exactly a replacement for the amazing work teachers do in classrooms.


At Nyansapo AI, they provide power tools and resources to teach the foundational literacy and numeracy competencies and the needs of children. They are currently working with partners like USAID and YALI to support 5,000 children in Mt. Elgon to be able to do basic subjects like math and English. 



Improving the education system using AI


According to a report from the Office of Educational Technology at the US Department of Education, AI facilitates adaptivity, which is a crucial way that technology can enhance learning. AI, according to the report, can be a toolset for improving EdTech and technology’s ability to meet students where they are, build on their strengths, and grow their knowledge and skills.


Three years ago, teachers didn’t have tools to help them accelerate the grouping of students by their ability; the process was tedious. With AI-powered personalized platforms, teachers can enhance students’ engagement and keep them interested. 


Mwangangi said that by using AI-powered tools, a teacher can know which particular child is probably struggling with even simple concepts like number recognition and probably areas such as place values, which are very critical in informing that particular knowledge around addiction. And in that scenario, she said the teacher can group the children according to the specific elements identified. “When all of these are done properly, and also because technology is as good as exactly how it is being implemented, especially in education, the child can now have personalized learning depending on where exactly they are,” she said.


She said there is a need for organizations to support the delivery of foundational literacy and numeracy within the classroom by using AI in assessments. 


Paul Akwabi, founder and head of partnership and business development at Tech Kids Africa, said that AI is also playing a huge role for learners. “I think there is something that has not been quantified, mostly when we talk about school dropouts, yet there are excitements that AI is bringing into the classroom.”


“Right now we have school dropouts who do not have jobs simply because they didn’t find classrooms exciting when they were growing up, and these are doctors and lawyers who could have been but they are not now,” Akwabi noted.


Akwabi said that AI is reducing that particular gap and taking it into classrooms; it will be more exciting to learners, improve their critical thinking, and help them design their future and the world they want. 


Akwabi works at Tech Kids Africa, a technology academy for children, teenagers, and youths, where they customize content on robotic coding, AI, machine learning, online safety, and cyber security.


With the interest of ensuring AI is 100 percent implemented in all schools, there is a strong partnership between the government, education institutions, and private sector stakeholders who are working towards ensuring that they scale the use of AI in the classroom. Akwabi said that technology itself is so dynamic; it is changing daily, and the government cannot be able to play all the roles on its own.


According to him, this is why they are there, like EdTech entrepreneurs, innovators, and other organizations globally, especially Google, who are the deep minds of innovation.

 “We have partnered with Google, which is among the organizations leading innovation across the world. So if they don’t come back and look at how they are integrating or engaging the class, we will have a huge gap between academia and industry,” Akwabi said.


He noted that AI has also helped to achieve equity and inclusivity in the classroom. 

Akwabi said that AI enables learning to be more visual and creates a flat ground between normal people and the deaf where all of them can see what is happening.


Teachers are still trying to learn how to handle autistic kids. Akwabi noted that they learn much faster when it comes to visuals than when talking and instructing them on what to do. 




Challenges as a result of the widespread use of AI in learning institutions 


Milka Ukpere, yet another child apprentice at Mtoto News and a student, says the rise of evolving technology like ChatGPT denies learners the opportunity to learn how to do assignments and write essays on their own.


“I feel like with the rise of stuff like ChatGPT, instead of people using it in terms of just helping them in their work, they use it to complete their entire work, which does not help them in learning how to write their essays or assignments or having time to research the topic they are learning about,” Ukpere said.


Regarding policy development, Ms. Mwangangi said that the growth of technology has outpaced policy development in the country. According to her, there are a lot of EdTech companies like Nyansapo AI doing a lot of work in the country to support education, but there is no policy framework supporting this. She said that since AI is a tool, there is a need to have concrete data to ensure teachers are retrained on how best to use AI.


Mr. Akwabi said that for AI to serve the African and Kenyan markets, we are at the limit. AI needs to learn because it is data-driven. “This is a challenge when we talk about AI because it is data-driven, and therefore we need to feed it. The challenge for consumers or users is that we still have a lot of misconceptions about what AI is, the changes it’s going to bring, and the message out here is supposed to reach as many people as possible,” Akwabi noted.


Akwabi said teachers need to know and understand that technology is not going to replace them. Adding to that, people who know how to use technology and integrate AI into their work are going to replace or take advantage of people who are ignorant about technology and AI.


To ensure that teachers and educators are fully prepared for this integration of AI in classrooms, Akwabi said there is a need to have as many stakeholders as possible apart from the government to enable teachers’ access to such content by providing Internet access to them. “We just learned that we still have a huge population using feature phones that are not able to access the internet, and I think we can never be ready when it comes to technology,” he said.


Mwangangi said that there is progress being made, but a lot needs to be done, especially in rural areas where some parts do not have electricity. “Let us not forget that we are living in a country where some schools do not have electricity and maybe they were given the tablets but teachers are weary about using the tablets,” she noted.


She said there is much that is needed, especially in rural areas where Nyansapo has a big footprint, to ensure that teachers in those particular areas can have access to available resources.


Mwangangi called upon organizations to stand at the forefront to ensure that the child is not only able to read but also create a culture of reading and imagination. “That’s like an overall vision, which we are sending to parents and other organizations that are very interested in using AI to improve foundational literacy and numeracy,” she said. 


Akwabi said that it is the responsibility of everyone for things to change in Kenya and Africa. “It is not our responsibility today for us to be third world countries; we can blame it all on our forefathers, but in the next ten years, if Kenya and the entire continent of Africa are still third world countries, I think we are the ones to be blamed, so let’s do something; let’s innovate or die,” he said.


In conclusion, the integration of artificial intelligence into education represents a transformative shift in how we teach and learn. By leveraging AI technologies, educators can personalize learning experiences, improve accessibility, and enhance student engagement. It is crucial to approach AI implementation in education with careful consideration of ethical implications, ensuring equity and privacy are prioritized.


Aura Ruth is a communication consultant, a storyteller, and a writer. She is a journalist working with Radio Africa Group, where she writes for The Star Newspaper. She writes general human interest stories with a focus on health, the environment, and education. 

Email: auraruth8@gmail.com; website: https://muckrack.com/aura-ruth 

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