A few hours’ drive north of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in a remote area on the Samburu Reserve, Kiltamany Primary School was bare-bones: a handful of long wooden desks and a stretch of blackboard struggling to serve hundreds of students from the surrounding villages. Now, Kiltamany Primary School has become a shining example of a wireless, tech-enabled classroom, thanks to the budding minds of Kenya’s booming tech community.
Using Kio Tablets designed by Nairobi-based software company BRCK, Samburu children—boys and girls—are learning how to read and do basic math skills, among other educational goals, emphasizing the idea that knowledge is power and widening their future growth. What’s more, Samburu women, whose traditions and customs often keep them at home, are also going to school, setting an example for their children by doing something they’d never been able to do before.
“They want to inspire their kids to take education seriously,” says Slovenian photographer Ciril Jazbec, whose latest story “How Africa's Tech Generation Is Changing the Continent” appeared in the December 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine.
Prior to photography, Jazbec studied economics, a background that served him in his aim of telling the story of Africa’s entrepreneurial spirit—highlighting the extraordinary sparks of creativity, progress, and forward-thinking that often aren’t synonymous with stereotypical ideas of the continent.
Every journey starts with a first step. For Kenya and many of the surrounding countries, that journey started with broadband internet. A decade ago, East Africa―and Africa in general―lay in the shadow of the rest of the world, disconnected from the high-speed internet that was crisscrossing oceans, countries, and continents to build an online global community. The region got its first fiber-optic cables installed around 2010, planting the seeds that would allow tech communities to flourish.
A few years later, Kenya’s internet presence grew thanks to the government’s “National Broadband Strategy,” an initiative that aims to roll out and provide quality internet to its citizens.
For the women of the Samburu tribe, technological advancements allowed them to use digital tablets to expand their skills and knowledge, increasing the value of education in this traditionally nomadic tribe.
Jazbec says that his time with the Samburu presented interesting contrasts: One hour, he was photographing a digital classroom. The next, he was back in the Samburu village, where they live a traditional tribal lifestyle.
“It was fascinating to see the clash between culture, technology, and desire,” he says, alluding to the inherent tension of modernity and cultural identity. On one hand, screens are overtaking our lives. On the other, technology can be used as a solution, inspiring and preparing Kenya’s next generation to be part of the global competitive landscape.