Schools in East Africa are allowing Bring Your Own Device

November 29, 2013

Tablet devices have become the newest addition to the education system in East African schools. Both private and organizations like churches and Islamic owned schools in the region are embracing technology by allowing bring-your-own-device for learning purposes. The Student’s Bring Your Own Device Policy in countries like Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania has allowed students to connect personally owned mobile devices running on the school’s wi-fi networks and option where parents pays for data bundles although that has so far remained a preserve of the wealthiest. Mobile data enabled tablets are among the list of devices being used by students together with smartphones and phablets. However, there have been complaints about myriad of challenges facing such initiatives such as accessories and repair warranties that were said to be getting in the way of economies of scale. Essentially parents go and buy the devices with their own money and then hand to their sons and daughters in mainly upmarket areas.

Decision on whether to implement BYOD in schools is optional for heads of schools and what they call board of governors both of whom remain responsible for adapting the policy according to the their schools own needs. The schools that have adopted a BYO approach are using industry’s existing parameters as a benchmark and are also using corporate sector standards on managing the usage of the devices. In Kenya, students and their parents are required to sign a student agreement before they are allowed to connect personal devices to the network and if the data SIM is the option parents must register their SIM card under their names before a student can start using it. In Tanzania and Kenya, private school students are prohibited from being involved in sharing content on the devices that can compromise or undermines security mechanisms implemented by the schools. Some schools have also prohibited taking video, photos or audio without prior permission from the management or department handling the BYOD. Those students who are found to be in possession of abusive, offensive or pornographic material are heavily punished.

There is also a policy amongst all schools embracing the BYOD that empowers the principals to be able to confiscate devices if they suspect device contains data that breaches the BYOD student agreement and school rules and regulations. Student use of voice, text or instant messaging during school hours is up to individual school management to decide and that also depends with student parents pockets. As the practice with corporate organization BYOD, the maintenance of the device is the responsibility of the student and parent, as is security, battery life, licensing and warranty and schools are not be responsible for any device damage or loss. The use of personal mobile devices at school has deepened learning because it is personalized and student-centered and has also helped meet the expectations of teachers, students, parents and caregivers. Me think that schools with BYOD are now in a better position to harness students’ learning skills and for fostering digital literacy in East Africa, developing fluency in a safe schooling environment.

Contador Harrison