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Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) Learns How Computer-Labs-for-the-Blind Enable Online Learning

 

Blind students computer demonstration to KNEC

[photo caption: A KNEC official examines inABLE computer lab for the blind set up]

The Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC)—a national examination body that offers certification for primary education, secondary education and college education—are in the processes of digitizing the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam to allow online testing. However, KNEC had anticipated this online option to be available to the sighted students only. Fortunately, inABLE Executive Irene Mbari-Kirika, along with inABLE teachers and students, had an opportunity to meet KNEC officials to show that how even blind and visually impaired can complete the online exam.

 By demonstrating how students go about their online exams, KNEC officials now have a much better understanding of how assistive computer technology can enable a visually impaired or blind student to use online learning tools and complete online examinations. inABLE’s successful computer-labs-for-the –blind  have offered computer studies to the blind and visually impaired at both primary school and secondary school level. Presently, the Kenyan government does not offer computer studies at this level even to the regular schools.

 With good training on how to use computer and assistive technology, including a screen reader, the blind and visually impaired can use computers just like the sighted people do. 

InABLE Receives First GE ‘Kujenga’ Donation to Open New Computer Lab at St. Lucy’s School for the Blind in Meru, Kenya

 

 

Kenya is among several African countries set to benefit from a skill transfer program supported by General Electric (GE). This sustainability initiative dubbed ‘Kujenga’ (means ‘build’ in Swahili) aims at empowering people by building valuable skills, and equipping communities with new tools and technology, and elevating ideas that will help solve Africa’s challenges.

In July, GE Kujenga donated Kshs 4.5 million (USD $50,000) to inABLE to provide equipment for a new computer lab for students with visual impairment at the St. Lucy’s School located in Meru.  Jay Ireland, GE Africa President & CEO presented the GE Kujenga contribution to Irene Mbari-Kirika, inABLE’s Executive Director. He said, “GE is committed to Africa’s sustainable development by making a difference through creating value for societies in ways that will empower the community.  This project empowers the blind and visually impaired with skills they can use to become employable and make a contribution to Africa.”

This is GE Kujenga’s first donation in Kenya. Since its 2009 opening of its first computer lab in Thika, InABLE has assisted over 500 students and 27 teachers at the Thika School for the Blind – both Primary and Secondary.

Executive Director Irene Mbari-Kirika explained the value of computer learning for blind and visually impaired students when accepting GE’s donation:  “Thanks to these labs, blind and visually impaired students are able to access online educational resources, communicate with new friends worldwide, type essays, research homework assignments, develop employable skills, use social media, and host blogs.”

 

Jay Ireland from GE Presents check to inABLE   Jay Ireland with GE presents a check to inABLE

LAPTOP PILOT PROJECT: Turn Potential Challenges into Real-Time Success

 
11 students with their laptops

Written by: Georbert Athoo, Assistive Technology Instructor

A little over five months ago, inABLE bridged the gap for technology by saying good-bye to a fixed computer console classroom set up and embracing a mobile technology alternative for the class seven pupils at the Thika Primary School for the Blind. inABLE took this step ahead, in advance of the republic of Kenya’s plan to roll out the laptop project in all schools, set a exemplary example that demonstrates real-time learning instruction and results.

In the begin some of our students exclaimed, "This is just impossible... I can't do it”. Yet, now all the class seven pupils’ parents, relatives, community and teachers celebrate the introduction of laptops. What would've happened if inABLE wasn’t forward thinking and gave up the idea of portable laptops that might be dropped or too small for blind or visually impaired students to easily maneuver?  How very limited would the students’ computer learning knowledge be today if we didn’t stick to our plans and see this technological evolution through to the end? Thankfully, the inABLE leadership had this vision and passionately worked towards it with greater enthusiasm.
 
For sure success is a journey of thousands miles with lots of challenges. InABLE  took the risked last April to give out seven laptops to pupils in the pilot project with a few doubts as to whether the laptops would be returned in good condition. Reloaded up with more than ten class audio clips lessons, kindle books for the social studies, user guides and different book share story books, the students enjoyed carrying home their laptops and keenly made use of them while at home with weekly phone call support by the Assistive technology instructors. 

With technology….disability is NOT inability. We are very proud of all of our responsible students and appreciate the extended learning opportunities that mobile laptops provide.

Close Encounters with Thriving Student and Animals Benefits Many

Monica Smith, Irene Mbari-Kirika, and students at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi

[photo caption: Monica Smith on left in pink and inABLE Executive Director Irene Mbari-Kirika enjoy a day a the zoo with Thika School for the Blind Students ]

Early this year, Monica Smith went to visit the inABLE programs in Kenya. It was important for Monica to experience the program and mingle with the beneficiaries. She took time to talk to the students, read storybooks, and monitor the computer program. Also, she had a chance to interact with the teachers to understand the benefits of the program and some of their current needs. 

Monica's experience did not end at the school. She took a group of 14 students and their teachers to the Animal orphanage, Elephant Sanctuary, and Giraffe Center. Most students were able to touch and feed the giraffes for the first time. This was a very exciting experience for both Monica and the students.

To continue advancing the inABLE mission,  Monica hosted the Monica Smith & Friends Cocktail Fundraiser event on May 8th, 2014 to support the inABLE programs.

 

Georgia Institute of Technology Researchers Develop Plans for Weather Station

Georgia Tech Team with inable Team member

Carrie Bruce, pictured in center holding digital weather station, wrote about her recent trip to inABLE Computer-Lab-for-the-Blind at Thika School in Kenya.

From: Carrie Bruce, PhD, CCC-SLP
Research Scientist
Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access
Sonification Lab
Georgia Institute of Technology

To: inABLE

The trip was indeed valuable, particularly for our relationships and research interests. We are all thankful for the welcome from Head Teacher Mokokha, Deputy Principal Mwanthi, and all of the inABLE team. Thika School is an amazing place with dedicated administrators, teachers, and staff.

I was truly impressed by the work that inABLE has completed and started since our last visit in 2010. We debriefed students in Dr. Walker's lab about our visit and had many activities to talk about because we were able to get so much done while we were at Thika. In fact, the first set of photographs we shared with the students was a comparison of the computer lab from 2010 and last week's visit. Many positive changes that indicate the hard work of the inABLE staff. We also talked about the focus groups with students, discussions with teachers, installation of the weather station, the netbook project, and challenges with the existing math and science resources used to convey traditionally visual concepts (e.g., graphs and diagrams). There was much to share and many ideas for next steps.

Thank you for facilitating our program while we were there and taking the wonderful photos of our activities. We are developing plans for the weather station, computer training survey, math software, solar power, and other research projects. We will stay in contact about these plans since the input of the School and inABLE is important to the success of the work.

Regards, 

Carrie