One of the most pernicious aspects of HIV is the impact it can have on families with HIV-positive members, especially children. In Kenya alone more than 200,000 children under 14 are infected with AIDS and more than 1 million children are orphaned because of it or left without the necessary care. In the Nairobi suburb of Karen, however, the Nyumbani Children’s Home provides these vulnerable orphans with a place to live, learn and grow. Avallain Foundation is determined to join the Home in this worthy effort by giving them access to a-ACADEMY’s high-quality digital literacy and educational content. Thus, we aim to support the orphans’ education with KICD-approved primary school level Science and English.
Education for HIV-positive children
Sparked by the realisation that HIV-positive orphans were mostly left to fend for themselves during the early 1990s, Nyumbani Children’s Home was founded by the late American Jesuit priest Father Angelo D’Agostino and its current executive, Sister Mary Owens. Today, the Home is a haven to some 120 HIV-positive orphans, ranging from newborns to young adults.
The orphanage gives comprehensive medical, nutritional, dental, psychological and spiritual care to perhaps the most vulnerable members of Kenyan society, changing their lives for the better. The staff also take it upon themselves to teach the orphans digital literacy and life skills and support them in their academic studies. Thanks to this support, they not only gain the skills necessary to succeed in their formal education, but they also learn basic digital literacy skills required in the 21st century.
Recognising a digital content gap
Nyumbani Children’s Home is 100 % funded by well-meaning foundations and private citizens from all over the world, particularly the US. The orphanage has received more than 30 laptops as a donation to improve the digital literacy skills of the orphans, but unfortunately access to high-quality content that is curriculum aligned is not easy to come by and is also quite costly. In many cases, this leads to very good infrastructure which is often not used to its full potential.
Ivan Kasibwa, the head IT technician, told us that the orphans were taught digital literacy in special IT classes on Saturdays and during school holidays. These lessons concentrated mostly on using Microsoft Word and navigating the internet. The children also had access to an educational program to hone their digital literacy – but unfortunately, this software was not aligned with Kenya’s national curriculum. That meant that paradoxically the infrastructure was readily available for the orphans, but there was still a content gap between their schoolwork and the digital learning materials available at the Home.
Teaching digital literacy in context
“We saw that Nyumbani staff were giving these disadvantaged orphans all the safety, hope and love they could wish for”, says Dr Martina Amoth, Education Director at Avallain Foundation, “So now it was up to us to add our education expertise to the mix, teaching the orphans the knowledge and digital literacy skills which will help them succeed in the modern world.”
In April 2017, we installed a-ACADEMY English, Science and digital literacy content on all of the orphanage’s laptops. Then, we trained the staff to employ this content in the most efficient manner. As Volunteer Coordinator Sister Julia Mulvihill, IT Officer Ivan Kasibwa and his two interns listened, we realised that they understood the unique benefits of the software for both general education and digital literacy training.
As a fully KICD-approved program, a-ACADEMY allows the orphans to use their laptops as a blended learning tool, combining their learning experiences in school directly with those offered by the software and gaining valuable digital literacy skills in the process. Since the content is also fully adapted to the context of life in Kenya, the students engage with it more readily and gain knowledge valuable to their everyday lives. When we showed them some of our video content geared towards teaching how to treat and prevent cholera, it became evident just how important this approach really is: “You could not have played the video at a more relevant time”, Sister Julia Mulvihill told us, “With the outbreak of cholera in the country, the video is very relevant.”
Building a better future for those who need it most
The orphans of Nyumbani have now joined the 45’000 young students all over Kenya who are already learning English and Science at a primary school level and acquiring valuable digital literacy skills with a-ACADEMY – and we are honoured to have them. Protus Lumiti, the orphanage’s Chief Manager, told us: “We are very grateful to Avallain Foundation for this donation. I have seen the excitement in the faces of the children today.” But he also encouraged us to go further in our efforts to provide digital literacy to the orphans, saying: “What you have created is very good, you should do everything you can to make sure that more children can use it and that content for all other primary school subjects gets developed as well.”
This inspired us to also donate a-ACADEMY to Nyumbani Village in Kitui, a programme that support grandparents and their grandchildren. Working closely with Nyumbani encourages us to continue our efforts to raise funds to develop more primary school subjects for the software and share with Nyumbani’s orphans. As Dr Martina Amoth puts it: “By providing the orphans with valuable digital literacy skills they can be empowered and more competitive in the 21st Century. Thus, Nyumbani and Avallain Foundation are now collaboratively exploring funding opportunities to provide the orphans with a-ACADEMY learning materials in all available subject areas to further enhance their education in addition to providing digital literacy training.”
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR & SECRETARY OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS