Inspired by the children in our projects, Elimu Resource Centre was created to bridge gaps at school—over-crowded classrooms, lack of textbooks, not enough teachers, as well as poor study environments at home. Our first priority was offering solutions for poor children in the under-resourced public school system. Easy-to-use digital resources and self-directed study skills help students build self-drive and confidence in their learning.
Opened in 2016, the original Elimu Resource Centre was a one-room community library with a capacity for about 80 students. In that first year around 8,000 student visits were recorded.
In 2018, the Centre moved to a new four-storey building which accommodates up to 300 per day and provides separate study spaces for primary and high school students. During 2019, over 15,000 student visits were received.
We immediately began expanding our services to the community. College and university students come to connect to their institution’s eLearning portals. Young entrepreneurs find a conducive work space with internet access. Students from our sewing project gain digital literacy as they learn to use the internet to modernize their businesses.
Youth after high school and college or university graduates get hands-on work experience in a vibrant modern working environment. Elimu’s Youth Volunteer program helps fill the gap between their studies and work. They join the daily work routine, participating in staff meetings and capacity building sessions. They handle reception; assist with conferences; help implement our digital reading program in schools, and act as youth mentors for students seeking guidance with their studies during school holidays.
Working with technology in the classroom enhances the standardization and quality of educational content and has the added benefit of transferring digital literacy to the community.
In 2018, Elimu introduced an EdTech platform called Kolibri to our Mobile Digital Reading Program. Developed by US-based Learning Equality, Kolibri is specially designed to provide offline access to a curated and openly licensed library of educational content. This is the right solution for Kenya with its unstable electrical supply and expensive internet.
The system provides many benefits to students and teachers. When a student sets up an account in Kolibri, it assesses that student and immediately places him/her at the appropriate academic level. Teachers can follow their students’ progress and can set up tests to assess their proficiency. Digital assessment tools provide immediate feedback to both teacher and student. Kolibri allows for the development and uploading of locally created content. This gives teachers further control over integrating eLearning activities with their regular lesson plans. Elimu is working with teachers in the community to produce relevant specific content for the Kenyan curriculum.
The Elimu team introduced Kolibri into classrooms and has been working to train teachers to handle the system on their own. They can gain additional hands-on practice working with students on Kolibri at the Centre during the school holidays. The full launch into classrooms was being implemented at the start of 2020, until the arrival of the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 led to the total shut down of schools across Kenya. Elimu is part of a small Kolibri community in Kenya (and a large global community) that is working from their various perspectives to introduce this eLearning approach into schools. We share ideas, best practices and challenges so as to learn from each other and help the developer identify solutions to our local challenges.
Our programs help guide youth through the sensitive transition to tertiary education, future employment or business start-up. We want to be the source of solutions for youth, especially those who cannot afford further studies on their own and are at risk of joblessness or under-employment.
We began with career talks for high school students. Today, we offer valuable information and exposure to skills and opportunities to help youth chart their pathway to their own futures. At the Centre, they find a bright conducive work or study space, all the digital resources they need, and the chance to volunteer or get involved in community service. Our programs help them grow in leadership and prepare for future employment or entrepreneurship.
Elimu’s youth information services provide hard-to-find information in one youth-friendly location. We help them successfully manage the e-portal for registering for college or university. We guide them through the process of applying for student loans to cover their fees and living expenses. We introduce them to other options for their future that many times they are not aware of – including vocational training, jobs in the “Blue Economy” and online work. Our Youth Info Forums gather high school students and youth after high school for presentations on services and products relevant to them and for opportunities to meet and engage with leaders in business, education, technology and government who work to benefit them.
Elimu Resource Centre houses the first Cisco Networking Academy in Kilifi County. We have two goals: to empower youth with IT skills, and to provide hands-on experience to prepare them for future work in the modern job market. Courses are pursued online under the guidance of our certified instructor. Graduates receive an official globally-recognized Cisco certificate.
Youth pursuing our Cisco IT Essentials course are invited to join Elimu Tech Clubs where they gain hands-on experience. They learn how computer skills are employed on-the-job as they explore various software packages. They improve their communications skills as they learn how to design and give business presentations. They work in teams to fix and maintain computer equipment at schools and community-based organizations. Some transition to our youth volunteer program after completion.
We take our digital tools out to the vulnerable in society. Elimu’s Mobile Digital Reading Program takes e-textbooks and video tutorials to classrooms during the school semester when school children cannot make it to the Centre. We also deliver the reading program to a local prison, junior remand centre and girls’ rescue home. In these highly vulnerable settings, participants can continue their studies during their incarceration—bringing some normalcy to the experience and giving hope of a better future outside. We also transfer digital skills to Malindi’s “Boda Boda” motorcycle taxi drivers, many of whom have had no opportunity to handle a computer or continue their learning after school. They learn to easily maneuver the government e-portals for their licensing and registration needs.
An important objective of the Centre is self-sustainability. That’s why we are transitioning from a traditional donor-dependent charity to a social enterprise approach. Malindi is a semi-urban setting where abject poverty co-exists with relative affluence. For income generation and long-term sustainability, the Centre serves both those who are able to pay for its services and those who need to be subsidized. Along with the Cisco Networking Academy, the new facility offers a variety of income possibilities including conference hall rentals, swimming lessons and special services to schools.
Journeying with children from Grade 4 upward allows Elimu to have a significant impact over many years of their education. The value we provide includes transferring digital literacy to the community, enhancing literacy and academic performance amongst students, and imparting life skills from our Christian faith-inspired mentorship approach.
Elimu is very grateful for the ongoing generous support of The Charis Foundation in providing funds towards the annual operating costs for Elimu Resource Centre. (The initial set-up costs, that is purchase of equipment, furnishings and installations, were covered by our founder.)
On June 11, 2018, the Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya and the Kilifi County Governor presided over the ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the new expanded Elimu Resource Centre.