File picture: Learners joining HTML coding workshop at Ga-Rankuwa, South Africa, 22 November 2017. Original public domain image from Flickr
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Kenya becomes the first African country to teach coding in primary and secondary school

Outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, announced that coding will be added to the primary and secondary schools’ curricula. Despite his failure to deliver tech equipment for school-going children with the promised timeline, this development shows the government’s ongoing commitment to ICT.

The Economic Survey 2021 report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), indicates that Information Communication and Technology (ICT) is one of the top ten highest contributors to Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It details that despite the pandemic, the value of output from the ICT sector to Kenya’s GDP increased by 2.5 per cent to Kshs. 538.3 billion in 2020, more than doubling from Kshs. 258 billion in 2019. It also notes that in previous estimates, Kenya’s revised GDP figures undervalued ICT’s contribution to the economy due to shortcomings in the data measuring process.

Although Kenya is known as the ‘Silicon Savannah,’ this status needs continued pacing with technological innovation and stronger digital foundations. Scaling digital skills at primary, secondary, and tertiary education levels is a huge part of widening tech adoption and growing a lucrative digital economy. It can also help narrow the rural and urban development divide that limits collective advancement.

The 20th edition of the Kenya Economic Update: “Securing Future Growth,” highlights that Kenya’s digital divide is significant, 44% of the urban population has access to the internet compared to 17% of the rural population. These gaps cause limitations in the usage and the application of digital tools and services. While “93.4% public primary schools are now covered by the Digital Learning Program; secondary schools still lag in access to connectivity and the curriculum currently fails to offer digital skills as a stand-alone compulsory course.”

Coding in primary and secondary schools 

The departing Kenyan government launched the Coding and Computer Programming Curriculum for Public Schools earlier this month. The syllabus approved by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) and created in partnership with Kodris Africa, an education technologies firm, is under the National Digital Master Plan for 2022-2032.

During the unveiling the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, Joe Mucheru said, “This is a great day for the country, especially for our children who will now have the opportunity to learn coding and computer programming at an early age. The world is changing, and everyone is going digital… Kenya will not be left behind.” In tandem with the newly implemented Digital Literacy Programme, young Kenyans are poised to develop useful digital skills, added Mucheru.

The Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti who also attended the event, noted that this was an important step in equipping children to solve complex tech problems in the immediate and far future.

Sharing that sentiment Kodris Chief Executive Officer Mugumo Munene, stated, “It is imperative that students learn the language of the world of today, which is coding. Kodris Africa was purpose-built to add value to the body of knowledge that students are acquiring today so that they can have a better chance in the world of employment and employment creation.”

Kodris’ website also details the necessity for coding at an early age, stating, “Algorithmic thinking, analytical thinking, and critical thinking, as well as problem solving, and design-oriented thinking are all considered the skills of our era. Many developed countries, having realized the importance of these skills, have made radical changes in their education systems.”

The outgoing President also launched the National Cybersecurity Strategy 2022 which provides strategic interventions in addressing national cybersecurity challenges in Kenya and the Kenya National Digital Master Plan which will run till 2032.

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