A Language for National Development: The Computer Literacy Program at Starehe Boy’s Centre and School, 1980-1990

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Abstract Summary
In 1980, Starehe School in Nairobi became the first Kenyan second-level institution to introduce computer education. From a small pilot-scheme reliant on the University of Nairobi’s mainframe computer, Starehe’s program expanded rapidly. Student enthusiasm and an ambitious school leadership convinced international donors to provide mini-computers and construct a computer laboratory. Starehe soon became Kenya’s strongest advocate for the adoption of computer technology, with visits from the President, Daniel Arap-Moi, and local and international business and NGO leaders. Indeed, Kenya’s present status as a technology hub in east Africa has often been attributed to Starehe’s early experiment in promoting computer literacy. With Starehe’s computer education program as its central focus, this paper sheds light on three interlinked aspects of the adoption of technology in Kenyan history. Firstly, at the level of the school, it explores the significance of technology education as a form of pedagogy, building on work in gender and sexuality studies that considers how computer environments have been constructed as masculine spaces. Secondly, it considers the role of the school in shaping, and responding to, national debates around technology policy in a Kenya (at least at the government level) that was initially reluctant to see the widespread adoption of computer technology. And finally, in a school that was designed to promote national development, it explores how computer literacy was cast as a means to rapid growth in an era of economic stagnation.
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Submission Type
Organized Session
Abstract Topic
Chronological Classification :
20th century, late
Self-Designated Keywords :
technology adoption, pedagogy, Kenya, computer literacy

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