Experience is the Best Teacher: Bridging the Digital Margin among the Marginalized

‘Experience is the best teacher’ is an old proverb emphasising that people learn more and gain more wisdom from actual observation and contact with events or facts rather than hearing about these events or facts secondhand. In essence, it underscores the idea that actually doing a task or having an experience will impart deeper lessons than being taught the same thing in a book or in school. When we encounter real-life situations and navigate through them, we gather practical knowledge and skills that stay ingrained in our memory. Each experience adds a layer of wisdom, by sharpening our judgment and decision-making abilities.

“I was born and brought up here. I remember when we started going to primary school, we were so many. We were a class of over 50 but as we progressed through our primary education, numbers gradually decreased. Between Grades 4-8, there was a high dropout rate among the girls. By the time we were in grade eight, nearly all the girls had dropped out of the class. Boys would soon follow suit and unfortunately, nobody provided any reason for what was happening to my peers.” These are the words of Jeremiah Kutanya. 

By the time Jeremiah Kutanya completed his University Education, he had made a resolve to go back to his community in rural Kajiado and bring a change. This is how he birthed Pastoralists Integrated Concerns (PICO), an indigenous community-based organization. 

With this month’s edition focusing on Digital Literacy for Education in Marginalized Communities, Jeremiah narrates to us in the September 2023 edition of EdTech Mondays that this beginning wasn’t rosy. PICO was faced with the challenges that many startups experience key among them being lack of finances. 

Experience, as the unparalleled teacher in the school of life, has been instrumental in fostering growth, resilience, and adaptability, enabling Jeremiah to overcome challenges and achieve success.

EdTech Mondays sponsored by Mastercard Foundation, is the platform that plays the crucial role of fostering essential dialogues on the integration of technology in education, by sharing effective strategies for utilizing technology to enhance educational policies and practices. The hosts of Edtech Mondays in Kenya, EdTech East Africa on the other hand unites regional EdTech communities, fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing for the delivery of quality work.

Digital Literacy And Divide

According to Western Sydney University, digital literacy encompasses the essential abilities required to live, learn, and work in a society where communication and access to information is increasingly accessed through digital technologies like internet platforms, social media, and mobile devices. 

A research by Oklahoma State University on learning in the digital age says that a digital divide is an economic and social inequality regarding access to, use of, or impact of information and communication technologies. The Maasai community where Jeremiah hails from has been categorized as one the marginalized communities in Kenya according to Minority Rights Group International, making education a privilege for the few rather than a basic necessity for all.

Blessing In Disguise

When COVID came, many saw it as a disruptor of the learning process and progress. This wasn’t the case of Jeremiah however as it opened up the region to new possibilities. Prior to the COVID period, Jeremiah says that they had no basic tech devices like televisions or radios. Smart phones were unheard of in the area, but the government had a call to the parents to “organize themselves to keep learning continuing, though schools were closing.” This necessity pushed them to devise a new mode of learning in the community. Manyatta Based learning is home-based learning, where PICO maps out the various homesteads (Manyattas) in the village, counts the number of children available and group them according to their respective grades.

Starting with only one school, the initiative has grown to six schools, one of which is a secondary school.  The programme also focuses on the parents as most of them have low literacy levels. Through the Parental Engagement and Empowerment Training, about 3,000 parents have been taught basic tech skills so that they can be meaningfully engaged in their children’s learning process.


PICO, according to Harryzon Kiok the Programs Officer, has different programs. Some are educational while others are non-educational programs.


One of the programs that PICO is currently undertaking is ACCESS which is an acronym for Accelerated Community Centred Education for Sustainable Solutions. This is practiced in all the five primary schools and the secondary school. For the primary schools, below are the programs involved.

  1.   Foundational learning: This is a program that is designed for the young learners to ensure that they obtain the basic foundational skills to unlock their potentials in education.
  2.   PICO Corner: This is where all learning materials (books, flash disks, radios) are kept for learners to access.
  3.   Study Clubs: These are independent groups where learners are allowed to interact with learning material based on their preferences. According to Harryzon, the radio program is one of the most captivating clubs as learners come to listen to indigenous stories and narrated by the elderly members of the community, then stored in the flash disk for dissemination through radios. With the challenge of electricity and internet access, this team realized that radio is the best tech device to use at the moment. According to Calistus Sompeta, a teacher at Olkiramatian primary school, one of the reasons that make the radio program a favorite among the learners is because it is child centered, and not teacher centered. They also relate with it because the stories are told in Maa, the local dialect.
  4.   Out of the 190 students at Oldonyo Nyokie Secondary School, a beneficiary of PICO, 40 girls have joined the Mathematics Club. In this club, students learn mathematics using tablets, powered by an app called Mwalimu Digital. With an objective to empower learners digitally, the club has contributed to the improvement of club members’ grades. The improvement in mathematics also translates to an improvement in other subjects especially those related to STEM.

Mr Joash Gichini, a teacher at Oldonyo Nyokie Girls says that he cannot separate Mathematics from the upcoming digital literacy. The use of the tablets has also given a boost to the girls’ esteem. This, according to Mr Gichini, is the right attitude to have towards Mathematics.

Success Stories

The integration of technology in education in Magadi, has brought significant transformations in the different schools involved and learning environments.

According to Mwende Konga, the head teacher at Olkiramatian Primary School, one of the ways that they have benefited greatly is through Enhanced Learning Resources. PICO came in with books as well as technology devices and this has not only made it possible to access a vast amount of information and resources online, but also the learners have been motivated greatly in their learning.

Active Engagement: The use of technology in teaching has brought a change as most learners have become active participants. A number of these students had never seen these devices therefore their availability in school makes learning fascinating. Speaking about this, Mwende said that she has had a number of students coming to ask for an opportunity to join the school she is heading because of the radio lessons.

Use of technology has helped the teachers in efficiency and organization. The use of technology for instance in grade management and lesson planning, helps the teachers grow their skills and knowledge in technology.  This continuous learning helps them stay current with best practices.

PICO has not only enlightened the school going children. By investing in parents through the Parental Engagement and Empowerment Training, they have not only enabled the parents to navigate online resources for their children, but also created an opportunity for social progress.


Establishing PICO did not come easy for Jeremiah. When he started, he realized that donors were a bit apprehensive to support “youth-led initiatives”. This made him change his approach and embrace an organization that is led by the community, For the community and Located within the community. Though he has started, there is more to be done by PICO and insufficient resources still is a big challenge.

Magadi, where the schools are located, is a rural area characterized by limited infrastructure like electricity, internet connectivity, and access to modern devices (computers, tablets, smartphones). These become barriers in implementing tech education.

Keeping technology up and running in rural areas can be challenging due to a lack of resources. Devices may break, and software may need updates, while funds and technical expertise may be limited.


The integration of technology in education is proving to be a transformative force in Magadi, empowering students, educators and parents alike to explore new horizons of knowledge and skills. From remote learning solutions to interactive digital resources, technology has bridged gaps and unlocked opportunities that were once unimaginable. As this dynamic partnership between technology and education continues to evolve, Kajiado’s students are not just embracing the future, they are actively shaping it. 

To achieve this however, there is a need for more partnerships with government, NGOs, and private sector organizations that provide infrastructure, training, and ongoing support, to ensure that technology enhances education in these underserved areas. Jeremiah may not have managed to keep his peers glued to education but his efforts are keeping their children in school.

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