USAID Kenya and East Africa Education and Youth Office Connectivity for Learning Request For Information
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Since the Government of Kenya (GoK) closed schools to help contain the spread of COVID-19 in early 2020, it has interrupted learning for over 17 million students, many of whom have no access to online or virtual learning. COVID-19 has underscored the need for more flexible learning options, like online or virtual learning, that build a more resilient education system that can handle unforeseen shocks and stressors. Unfortunately, not only do students lack access to virtual learning at home, many schools themselves (both public and low-cost private) do not have internet connectivity. As an illustration, in 2020 a Kenyan NGO called Usawa reported that only 22% of Kenyan children have access to learning through the internet. The report also showed that children from a higher socioeconomic status and children who attend private schools are twice as likely to have access to digital lessons than pupils in public schools. The study also showed that less than 10% of learners in public schools have access to digital learning materials. Therefore, there is a great need to have flexible digital approaches to deliver quality education to Kenyan pupils in schools and in communities to respond to varying crises. USAID/Kenya and East Africa (KEA) seeks to expand its distance learning programming toward more digitally relevant and impactful online learning solutions that are accessible to all types of pupils, especially the most marginalized. This interest comes as external shocks such as COVID-19, climate change, and ongoing conflict have severely disrupted education in Kenya. For example, chronic flooding has destroyed schools, and terrorist attacks against teachers in northeastern counties have led to the withdrawal of non-local teachers from their posts. Such shocks have made access to quality education services extremely difficult for affected children. USAID/KEA is interested in considering different technology options to support synchronous and asynchronous digital and virtual learning for students, especially children in the early primary grades, while taking into consideration barriers that limit digital learning such as lack of internet connectivity, digital learning tools and electricity. USAID is looking for partnerships that would engage relevant stakeholders including the private sector, civil society, and the Ministry of Education and its parastatal institutions to deploy user-friendly, cost-effective, and sustainable technologies that support children with support from their teachers and families to safely access quality instruction from home or within their communities. Solutions might include leveraging existing digital tools supported by the MOE through the Kenyan Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD). Solutions might also include promising new ways of supporting distance learning not yet explored by the Government of Kenya. With a variety of stakeholders, USAID/KEA seeks to bridge the digital divide and lack of internet connectivity in schools and communities while embedding the skills needed to help raise reading and social and emotional outcomes for all students in grades 1-3 through sustainable and user-friendly distance learning solutions and resources (both synchronous and asynchronous). The goal of the upcoming activity is to implement digital/online distance learning with support from the private sector (Kenyan, US, and international companies) to improve reading and social and emotional skills for all learners in grades 1-3 in a diverse array of Kenyan counties (ASALs, urban/rural areas, etc). The activity will aim to improve reading and social and emotional skills while strengthening local capacity to support and manage distance learning, similar to other existing approaches offered in Kenya (EX:KICD). The activity will have a unique focus on embedding caregivers and teachers with the knowledge, skills, and training to support learners in their homes, and ensuring that the intervention is sustainable beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.