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Star athlete using solar to transform learning for youth

Monday, March 4th, 2024 02:30 | By
Star athlete using solar to transform learning for youth
Zipporah Wandia, 20, explains to Prof Per Olof Hansson of Linkoping University, Sweden, how Artificial Intelligence in her solar powered tablet is helping her learn agriculture and computer technology at her home in Solio village, Narumoro. PHOTO/Print

A Kenyan athlete and his friends have teamed up to offer free Artificial intelligence-aided technical training using solar-powered tablets in Narumoro, a new cost-effective self-learning concept developed by a Swedish University professor.

Three-time Nagano Marathon champion Isaac Macharia, a director of Kenswed School Secondary School has opened a hub in Naromoru which will offer young people free virtual vocational training M-Learning using solar-powered tablets.

The tablets are uploaded with more than 50 technical courses simplified by Artificial Technology (AI) lecturing.

The Ngong-based school which sponsors vulnerable but deserving students from poor backgrounds with free secondary education will offer financial assistance to successful students who attain grade tests to start their own businesses.

The Kenswed Solio Castle M-Learning Hub at a community hall in Naromoru is offering 115 students a variety of technical courses.

The students have been undergoing AI-assisted course modules on their tablets.

The tablets developed by Dr Per-Olof Hansson, an Associate Professor at the Department of Education, Linköping University, Sweden are also used for lighting homes in off grid areas of Solio ranch.

 Hansson in collaboration with Swedish students who have been fund raising for this project have introduced practical courses at the centre which has similar hubs in Mtito Andei, Maili Tisa and Turkana.

Some of the equipment donated during the launch included electricity and solar powered tablets, computers, cooking equipment, and hair dressing gadgets which will be used by the students who have been undergoing theoretical learning in the run-up to the final trade tests exams conducted by Technical and Vocational Board mid this year.

“We believe in motivational learning with the primary goal of the beneficiaries getting employment or starting their own businesses, that is why students who will attain TVET grade certificates stand a good chance of getting funding of between Sh200,000 to Sh500,000 micro-financing to start their own businesses related to what they have learned,” he said.

Mandatory course

Hansson added that entrepreneurship was a mandatory course in their syllabus to enable beneficiaries start businesses.

“We will make follow ups to ensure they repay the loans and hand over the gadgets to the next deserving group in a self-sustaining circle,” he said.

Kenswed School is a brainchild between Hansson and Macharia, Kenya’s three times Nagano Marathon champion and philanthropist.

The two met abroad in athletics competition, developed a friendship and decided to actualise Macharia’s dream of founding a secondary school which would offer needy bright students free education.

In view of this, Kenswed School in Kibiku, Ngong was established in 2011 and subsequently the M-Learning hubs using computers developed by a Chinese tech company.

Some of their students have proceeded to local and foreign universities and colleges and always return to Kenswed School for mentorship where they are joined by Swedish students in a very enterprising exchange programme.

“We offer students Sh4,000 start up grants to buy basic learning equipment and set them off with tutorial on how to use the tablets in an easy to learn AI assisted learning process called M-Learning with assistance from local instructors,” said Hansson.

Hansson is a teacher and educator at undergraduate to master level in Social Science and a range of field studies in Eastern Africa and Asia for teacher trainees and students who fundraise for Kenswed.

The don who has been an exchange lecturer at University of Nairobi several times said his research areas of interest included mobile learning, online teaching methods, simulation teaching and health literacy.

 He said Kenswed was supplementing the government’s efforts on CBC by trying to reach out to those with basic education but were either unable to pursue further education due to lack of fees or better in other fields than academic.

Institution establishment

He is also a researcher at Athletic Research Centre at Linköping, a branch which led to his meeting with Macharia in 2009 when they developed a friendship leading to the establishment of Kenswed School University.

Prof Hannson said the students are divided in small groups of cohorts who meet during the week for practicals at the Kenswed M-Learning Solio Castle Hub.

“They will undertake six months of AI assisted theoretical courses and two months of practicals,” he said.

He revealed that after registration, each student is given a tablet and solar power panel with two bulbs which light up homes of those without power.

He said beneficiaries then choose their preferred courses offered through tutorial using AI.

 Beside the secondary school at Ngong also has a TVET college and hospital offering subsidised rates and free maternity for teenage mothers.

Hosea Warutere, 24, said he has chosen to combine entrepreneurship with computer programming to learn the basics of business management.

“I come from this area where the only available jobs are casual construction site work and hawking. Now I am able to learn computer technology as well as business management

Peninah Wanjiku, 20, from Solio Ranch village who started her beauty course in November last year said her life is changing for the better and that she charges her gadget during the day and is able to pace herself by helping her mother at the Shamba and taking lessons on hairdressing in her free time. “I am now the village hairdresser and beautician and ultimately want to open my own shop,”

 With determination on her face, Ziporrah Wandia,20, an expectant mother, is already raring poultry to save money in readiness for the arrival of her child. Her mother is a labourer, so are her two brothers but she has not, lost hope.

‘My aim is to learn agriculture, and computer, entrepreneurship. I will for sure travel abroad one day to pursue further education in medicine as this is a stepping stone to greater things,” she said.

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