Category Archives: education

ALU: Africa’s University of the Future

The African Leadership University (ALU) is a pan-African university, which aims to prepare students for jobs that don’t exist today. Their programs aim to equip students with necessary skills including entrepreneurship, leadership, critical thinking, and project management – right from their first term. They have an intense online engagement process to monitor student performance that starts right from the time students apply and then right through admissions, assignments, courses, exams and assignments.

Their current degrees on offer at their Mauritius campus are Computing (Bsc), Business Management (BA), Social Sciences (BA) and Psychology (Bsc). It opened in September 2015 and has over 200 students from over 30 African countries.  Every year, students can get up to 4  months of internship at one of the ALU partner organizations which include Cellulant, Coca-Cola, McKinsey, Tiger, IBM, PWC, Thomson Reuters,  Pernod Ricard and Swiss Re. The partners also help subsidize the cost of education at ALU where a year of tuition and accommodation is about $7,000 – a modest amount compared to the cost of university education in many countries.

They also have a study abroad program that takes 4-12 months and ALU will have an MBA program at a new campus that will soon open in Rwanda, and for which they are already accepting applications. ALU is part of the Africa Leadership Group, and has founders including Fred Swaniker, Graca Machel and Donald Kaberuka. Eventually, they plan to have  25 campuses across Africa that can host 10,000 students a year.

ALU teams are currently on road shows to promote the university in Accra, Nairobi, Johannesburg, and Lagos. They have workshops, schools visits, and other events this month as they promote the university, and they are accepting applications up to a deadline on June 5.

BRCK Education Launches in Nairobi

It’s been just over a year, since the BRCK team launched their groundbreaking device – a rugged 3G router with Wi-Fi, and 8 hour battery life that’s built to be extended to work with other devices and uses.

From pieces of electronic junk assembled at the iHub a few years earlier, this became a consumer electronics device that has now been sold in 54 countries and the team is now back with the next variants of their device.

BRCK engineers

BRCK engineers

The initial device had been extended since with assistance from partners and feedback from users, some of who found that the in-built storage in the BRCK and its micro web server (which allowed users to share content over Wi-Fi) were unexpectedly and surprisingly crucial features.

The groups who showed the greatest interest in extending the capabilities of the BRCK were mainly in the education sector – comprising education providers who had content, but had challenges delivering it at schools around the world which had the challenges of electricity, internet, device failure etc. With the support of Mozilla Foundation, they were able to develop the BRCK pi – in which a Linux server was added to the BRCK, enabling content to be shared, even with zero connectivity.


Nivi, who was a co-founder of eLimu learning tablets, and who’s now the president of BRCK Education spoke of the inspiration and challenges that eLimu went through in delivering digital education through sharing text-book content in a digital format – with the main problems being uploading new content and the fragility of the imported tablets. But with BRCK content cached locally, they were able to update several eLimu tablets overnight.

BRCK was launching two devices today in Nairobi that can be ordered at the BRCK Education site:

  • The BRCK Kio is a new sturdy tablet for school education. It can survive a 70-centimeter drop, is water & dust proof and is designed for kid-size hands. It has 8 hours of battery life, to last a full school day and has the latest processor from Intel. The $99 Kio is available for sale from October 1 to schools, and thereafter to the public in January 2016.
  • The BRCK Kio Kit a suitcase that has a BRCK pi (server), and 40 Kio tablets. The Kio Kit has a single charging point (and can be solar-powered in hotter areas) and wireless charging sleeves in which kids drop their tablets after school to recharge, and get uploaded with new content. The Kio Kit has a single power port and a single start button that gets the entire Kio Kit running in a minute. Erik a.k.a @whiteafricam, who’s a BRCK co-founder said that wireless charging, which is still a luxury item in many parts of the world, was an essential feature here to eliminate the need for multiple charging cables (and many sockets at schools). The Kio Kit is also secured that if someone removes (steals) a Kio tablet from the school, it won’t work and can’t be flushed. An entire Kio Kit costs $5,000.
BRCK Kio kit charging and loading Kio tablets

BRCK Kio kit charging and loading Kio tablets

#BRCKEducation has partners at JP, Intel, Pearson, Eneza education, KnowZone, eKitabu, eLimu and Kenyatta University. It also has Chase Bank as a finance partner to enable schools to acquire Kio Kits at Kshs. 46,000 ($460) per month.

More on the launch and products here and here . 

Strathmore Masters 2015

Strathmore University had a cocktail event to introduce their 2015 Masters Program.

Some of the interesting programs include masters of applied philosophy & ethics, masters in public policy management and masters in healthcare management. They also have three new masters maths programs (biomaths – that can be  applied in healthcare, financial maths – that can be applied in NSE/capital markets, and a masters statistical sciences).

Strathmore also has executive programs  to short courses tailored for professionals like  business owners/managers, construction project managers, digital advertisers (a partnership with Google) and an upcoming summit for women executive leaders to prepare more of them to take up seats on company boards.

At the event, Joseph Sevilla said all masters classes in his program (masters at iLab are in information security and mobile telecommunications) are taught by PhD’s as they won’t compromise on that – though it meant they had to use distance learning as some lecturers could not be found in Kenya.

The Strathmore Business School was opened in 2005 so this is their 10th anniversary.

GEMS School Nairobi

In Kenya for the last two years is the GEMS Cambridge School on Magadi Road, just past Galleria Mall. They are part of the 55 year old GEMS network, the largest K-12 school system in the world with 160,000 students and 13,000 teachers at with schools in Dubai, France, US, India, Europe and now in select African countries, offering different systems of education like IB and IGCSE.  Kenya will be their African headquarters and the school will soon be joined by others in Uganda and Nigeria then later by more in South Africa, Ghana, and Tanzania.

Interestingly, they price the English curriculum education they offer in Kenya as  ‘upper middle’ with fees ranging between Kshs 50,000 -120,000 ($1,333) per month, while in Uganda they will price themselves as premium school that will command even higher fees. They also don’t consider themselves ‘expensive’ as other Nairobi schools charge much more in a curriculum system that has not had new schools in about 30 years.

The GEMS Nairobi school has facilities include ICT and science labs, cricket field, pool, full track, and library, for the almost 1,000 students who also include boarders. They work to transition kids from the Kenyan (8-4-4) system by doing assessments of new students and monitoring their changes in terms of critical thinking and habit changes.

Philanthropy is a big part of GEMS, and through Varkey Foundation, they have several initiatives including an annual $1 million teacher prize in which a Kenyan is a finalist this year. They have also rehabilitated a school in Kibera, donated 30 libraries to schools in 8 counties, and are collaborating with the iHub on kids tech camps.

Are Kenyan Engineers Capable of Building Thika Road?

Yesterday’s post at the Thika Road Blog sparked a response from @BridgeMkr

Having grown up in Kenya then gone to the US for college and worked there ever since in bridge design, I would say that the Kenyan education system was more than adequate in preparing me for engineering school and a career as bridge engineer.

Based on that, I would say that the civil engineering graduates from Kenyan Universities have the basic tools to succeed as engineers in this world.

I read a comment that Kenyan universities are preparing students for 1980’s style construction – and if that is true, then I would say that is a good thing. If one clearly understands how to design structures built in the 1980’s then they understand the basics of design and construction.

There are buildings and bridges built in the 1900’s that are still standing. Over the years, the basics in design & construction have remained the same, with the difference being how well/accurately we calculate the design loads, and how well we design the structure to withstand these loads, the safety factors we apply to them, and the materials we use to construct them. If one understands the basic principles, then the next step of understanding modern design factors, codes, and materials is very simple.

I would rather have an engineer that can design a bridge using the old code by hand, than one who can only design the bridge using modern software packages, (and who does not know how the program comes up with the solution).

China has over a billion people therefore they will have way more engineering graduates. The way forward for Kenya and Africa, is to continue to produce civil engineers who clearly understand the basics in design and construction. Some of these graduates can then go to universities aboard to get their masters and post-graduate degrees, and who can later transfer this additional knowledge back to Kenya and Africa. The graduates that remain in Kenya upon graduation should go work under the direction of more qualified engineers, who can give them guidance on how to design various basic structures at first, with the complexity of the structure increasing as their career progresses. In engineering, like most things, experience, with the ability to learn, counts the most. Those graduates that went abroad, on return to Kenya can start out designing more complex structures based on the experience gained, but should still work under the guidance of more experienced engineers.

It may surprise a few people but today in the US, there is a debate raging on whether a master’s degree in civil engineering should be the minimum qualification for someone to be a registered civil engineer. It is felt that the current undergraduate programs are not adequate, especially if the pay for civil engineers is to go up.

In order for Kenyan and African engineers and companies to compete for, and design, major construction projects like the Thika Road Project, there needs to be a requirement that Kenyan and African engineers and companies be involved in the design and construction of these projects. This can be done by requiring some portions of the project to be designed and constructed by local engineers.

Another requirement, which would add to the cost of projects, but would ensure the transfer of knowledge, is to have independent designs done by local engineers. This means, having Chinese /European/American design firms design the complex structures but at the same time have local engineers and companies independently produce designs of the same complex structure. The local firm’s designs can then the compared to those produced by the foreign firm. Another problem with design & construction in Kenya and Africa is having adequate QA/QC procedures in place to ensure that structures are designed correctly and constructed according to the engineers design using the specified materials.

Through this process, current local deficiencies (if any) would be revealed, and at the same time the local firms would learn how things are done differently by foreign engineers/firms. This design exercise cost is very small, compared to the actual construction costs and I have been involved in projects where two independent designs have been produced.