Creative Learning in Kenya

The topic that I would like to explore is education in Africa and specifically, creative learning in Kenya. By adopting Mitch Resnick’s 4Ps of creative learning in schools: Projects, Passion, Peers and Play; we can ensure that students in Kenya are inspired and interested to learn.

The typical linear teacher-student model should be revised and replaced with a decentralized, matrix framework whereby learning can be achieved through multiple and alternative sources. This could be in the form of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), virtual classroom collaborations, innovative education tools or alternative educational programs.

This topic demands innovative, disruptive and economic reforms. Policy makers, educators and the private sector need to work in tandem to develop long-term educational solutions at the grassroots level.


Ecosystem Map

Ecosystem map of education in Kenya: here


Unlocking African Talent

The core values that I would like to bring to my work are:

  1. Inclusivity: I hope to bring together a diverse group of young talent from various regions in Africa. Inclusivity is not just bound to the participant selection criteria but also refers to an openness to bold ideas, changes or methods.
  2. Collaborative: Through creating a brave space for open collaboration among participants to enhance quality of ideas, inspire constructive feedback and build lasting relationships.
  3. Africa-focused: It’s my intention to base my work on nurturing and developing talent in Africa to spur a new generation of makers, scientists, researchers, innovators and change-makers who will use their skills to create a better future for the continent.
  4. Playful: Based on Mitch Resnick’s 4Ps of Creative Learning, my goal is to uphold the spirit of playful learning in my work. Especially through adopting non-instructionist approaches to education.
  5. Replicable: It’s important that my work is adaptable, well-structured and based on a sustainable model to create long-lasting impact.


I’m currently working on a 3-day, bootcamp that will be held in Nairobi, Kenya from 18th – 20th January 2019. This bootcamp is in collaboration with the Mekatilili Program, Foondi Workshops and the Technological Innovations for Inclusive Learning and Teaching (tiilt) Lab at Northwestern University. The aim of the gathering is to train African youth in 21st Century digital skills, build research capacity in Kenya, connect young people to international opportunities and to contribute to professional development of attendees.

In early December 2018, we shall be sending an open call via social media and other relevant platforms for applications. We aim to host 60 youth and the target audience is university students, makers, engineers, innovators and tech enthusiasts. In the spirit of inclusivity, we hope to attract, participants from diverse backgrounds and regions in Kenya.

We intend to re-design the traditional bootcamp model and create a playful, informative and collaborative gathering to facilitate sessions on human-centered design, the Internet of things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In partnership with the tillt lab, participants, will have a unique opportunity to collaborate with peers and faculty at Northwestern University to co-design solutions with specific communities in Kenya based on two themes: accessibility and education.

On completion of the bootcamp, a select group of attendees will further their research in summer 2019 during an intensive, experiential design program to validate and implement findings. During this process, participants will work closely with mentors, community leaders and users to co-create appropriate technological solutions to actual challenges faced by marginalized communities.

Through this opportunity, these select participants, will be linked to graduate or job opportunities within Northwestern University thus creating a pathway for skills development and matching, exposing youth to global opportunities thereby unlocking innovation potential in the continent.



A Feminist Passport?!

The artifact that my group was assigned to was a passport. The first task was to try to explain what a passport is in simple terms and in a way that is easy to understand. The definition that we came up with was:

A passport is…

  • A piece of paper – a mini booklet – that signifies where on Earth I was born, what nation-state I belong to and the legal privileges that comes with it.
  • Every time you enter a new country, you get a stamp in the passport thus creating a track record of all travel.
  • A standardized picture of me is in it along with my fingerprints and signature.
  • It is the only thing that will make people believe who I am no matter where in the world I am.
  • It allows me to travel across country borders but some passports are better than others. Singapore is #1, USA and Denmark share #2 and Kenya #58. Afghanistan is the worst. I can update it to let me stay longer than usual.
  • I have to buy it from my local government but it expires after a certain number of years. Usually ten.


The next part of the exercise was to redesign our artifact from a feminist perspective. The experience was quite insightful. I realized that the knowledge I had on feminism was quite limited. While researching on the subject, I got to learn about the various feminist movements throughout history (I’ll break them down below):

  • First-wave feminism: It a period of feminist activity that occurred during the 19th and early 20th century throughout the Western world. It focused on legal issues, primarily on gaining the right to vote. (Wikipedia)
  • Second-wave feminism: It drew attention to a wider range of issues: sexuality, family, the workplace, reproductive rights, de facto inequalities, and official legal inequalities. (Wikipedia)
  • Third-wave feminism: Embraced individualism and diversity and sought to redefine what it meant to be a feminist. It saw the emergence of new feminist currents and theories, such as intersectionality, womanism (within black feminism), sex positivity, vegetarian ecofeminism, trans-feminism, and postmodern feminism. (Wikipedia)
  • Fourth-wave feminism: The focus of the fourth wave is justice for women and also opposition to sexual harassment and violence against women. Issues that fourth-wave feminists focus on include street and workplace harassment, campus sexual assault and rape culture. (Wikipedia)


As a group we decided to focus on fourth-wave feminism given its significance in today’s social climate. We then asked ourselves: how can the passport be used to curb sexual misconduct and harassment?

Drawing from research, we found that women are less likely to travel alone due to safety concerns. We agreed that an additional goal of our solution would be to empower women to have the freedom and independence to travel without any fear. To achieve this, it was proposed that in case of an emergency, it was necessary to find a means to quickly alert local authorities and other emergency services.

Finally, we questioned whether or not a passport had to take the physical form of a booklet. Could a passport be a digital chip? What are the security concerns of transforming a passport to an electronic device? What are the variety of ways that the chip can be embedded in objects or attached to the human body?


From these insights, our solution is a wearable, digital passport that can be worn as a necklace or bracelet depending on a person’s preference.


Travel device that doubles up as a safety device – Calls emergency responders when triggered.

Information included in chip:

  • Emergency data i.e. contacts, blood type
  • GPS locator (can be switched on and off)


This new proposed passport would have the following features:

  • No gender at all (gender status is opt-in)
  • Nationality (or community – should be easier to obtain legal status is local issuer of the feminist passport)
  • No name policies. (You may choose as you like)
  • Age/date of birth (not included)


Overall, this experience emphasized Making by Making Strange (Genevieve Bell), by taking an ordinary object (like a passport) and reimagining it and its functionalities without any limitations. It also touched on  Do Artifacts Have Politics? (Langdon Winner), by demonstrating that through simple design alterations and features, people are able to politicize technology and other artifacts.

The exercise was done in under 20 minutes, therefore, the solution isn’t without its flaws. For me, the objective wasn’t necessarily how feasible the solution is but rather understanding the process and learning how as a designer, I can inadvertently create power imbalance through products that I create.

Quality Education | Gender Equality | Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

The issues that I am interested in, are based on three of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how they are applicable in Kenya. The 3 SDGs are: Quality Education; Gender Equality; and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.


Target 4.1

By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes 


Education needs to be viewed as a rite of passage for children in Kenya. To achieve this would mean creating awareness about the importance of education and learning among families and in particular parents. In some households, school-aged children are tasked with chores and other domestic responsibilities because parents do not understand the need for their children to attend school regularly.


Market can be equated to the number of employment opportunities. If there is a demand for skilled and educated youth, this may also influence the number of children in primary and secondary education. If youth are guaranteed jobs upon graduation, this may increase the number of children in school and reduce dropout rates.


The solution for law is simple: to have governments enact compulsory education laws. These laws, will mandate that all children to attend school up to a certain level. Failure to comply would be unlawful.


This can be achieved through promoting creative learning in various educational institutions. This would result in developing an enabling environment for young people and also teachers. Typical rote based learning is considered rigorous, boring and unchallenging. Through adopting Mitch Resnick’s 4Ps of creative learning: Projects, Passion, Peers and Play; we can ensure that kids are inspired and interested to learn.


Target 5.5

Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.


Unconscious biases are a key driver of gender inequality in the workplace. During the recruitment and selection processes, women are unjustly stereotyped despite having the same qualifications (or even better) than their male counterparts. To become aware of our biases and to take action to alleviate them, may help to promote gender equality.


Majority of senior and leadership roles across many disciplines are held by men. There needs to be a deliberate push to increase the number of women in managerial positions. Both public and private sectors should urge women in junior levels to pursue professional development trainings. Furthermore, women in senior roles should also make effort to participate in mentorship programs to encourage and inspire young women to pursue their career ambitions.


In 2010, Kenya enacted a new constitutional requirement that states that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective bodies can be of the same gender. This law has had a positive effect on the number of women in national and local public office. Although, the two thirds gender rule has not been 100% complied with, it creates future opportunities for women to vie for various available positions.


For women, the workplace can be quite a hostile environment. With cases of sexual harassment and assault on the rise, this creates an extra hurdle for women in pursuit of professional growth and development. Companies and various institutions need to create environments where women feels safe and comfortable. There need to be proper channels that are developed to report complaints and misbehavior in the workplace and consequently, strict punishment for perpetrators.


Target 9.3

Increase the access of small-scale industrial and other enterprises, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets.


In Kenya, locally produced goods and services and perceived to be of low quality. People should support local businesses and enterprises to ensure the survival and sustainability of the small-scale industry.

Market / Law

Increase access to markets for small scale businesses by eliminating cartels that monopolies certain industries. This may be achieved through legislature that promotes a free market economy. The market lever would work in tandem with law.


In Kenya, with accordance with the State Corporations Act (CAP. 446), Brand Kenya Board (BKB) corporation was established. Two of the key functions of the board are to promote local products and services and to encourage commitment to quality and innovation among businesses and people. The establishment of this corporation is an example of how code can be modified to assist small-scale businesses and enterprises.

Improving Gender Disparity in STEM?

In 2016, I founded the Mekatilili Program, which is an educational initiative that conducts interactive workshops on Human-Centered Design and basic engineering concepts to improve technical expertise, nurture innovation and to promote social cohesion among the youth in Africa. The focus of the program is to improve representation of women in STEM by facilitating these workshops in girls’ high schools. I hope to expose as many young, African women to design and innovation, to inspire girls to pursue careers in STEM and to be changemakers in their communities.

The group of people who would be best positioned to address this problem are:

  1. Women in STEM – Through their experiences, they can positively inform what would be the most appropriate solution. They also know what may work, what needs to be improved and can identify key issues in girls’ education.
  2. Educators – Their role in education can greatly inspire or deter young women to join STEM. Fostering creative learning in schools can promote an enabling environment that encourages girls to get involved in STEM.
  3. Policymakers – They are able to lower and remove barriers which hinder creative learning through systematic changes in education. Also, they can create awareness on gender bias and disparity in schools and in the workplace to shed light on various challenges that women face.


Reflecting on the consequences of the proposed solutions, I wonder if solely focusing on girls’ in STEM may inadvertently create a reverse effect whereby young boys and men feel neglected.

In the 2017 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) test scores, which is national examination completed by students in their final year of primary school, an unprecedented number of girls topped the country. Cyprian Nyakundi, a popular Twitter personality (who had over 700,000 followers before his account was suspended) wrote a lengthy post responding to the news and criticizing the feminist movement. Some quotes from the post include:

Men can no longer remain silent as the continued “genocide” on our gender persists. We are seeing more resources and emphasis being laid on the Girl-Child, contrary to the spirit of equality as conceptualized by the original feminist movement.


While rabid-feminists are chest-thumping and calling it a “victory”, right-thinking women who are mothers to sons, sisters, aunties, grandmothers can see the crisis that we are staring at. They know that their Boy-Child’s will not realize their full potential in this toxic environment, skewed to favor women.

The post went viral and to my surprise, many men supported his views as seen through the comments.

We’re busy empowering the girl child and ignorantly marginalizing the boychild.. The boy child will soon be extinct if we’re not careful. Let voices and activism arise in the same measure. Feminism is deafening us. Why should we be silent!!?


…continue laughing as men and boy child are being pushed to the corner by chauvinists, gays and lesbians. Violence and terror should be meted on those against boy child with immediate effect.

While others demanded for a call to action.

This result is just worrying, boys used to top, what happened, we need a discussion on this and a serious one to see how the boy child can gain his glory. We are throwing our boys to the bottom line and we expect them to be bread winners, let’s do something.


By focusing on women, am I inadvertently creating a rift between boys and girls in Kenya? Don’t young, African boys deserve to be involved in STEM programs too?

My personal experiences have shown me that there is a definite need to empower young women and to provide role models to inspire them to achieve their goals. But now I wonder if I am widening the gender gap that I seek to bridge.

My Story…

I’m a first year MAS student in Lifelong Kindergarten and my background is in Mechanical Engineering. I’m Kenyan and I grew up, lived, studied in Kenya up until 2 months ago when I moved to Boston to attend MIT.

My introduction to the tech and social change space was in my first year as an undergraduate student at the University of Nairobi, when a friend introduced me to a local makerspace situated within the institution. The makerspace was a Fab Lab, which I later came to know was birthed at MIT. As a member of the Fab Lab, I was exposed to young and talented students who worked hard to design and develop low-tech solutions to challenges faced in their local communities despite financial and resource constraints. During this time, I gained skills in human-centered design and digital fabrication and also developed low-cost, technological solutions in energy, education and healthcare for communities in Kenya.

These experiences inspired me to create the Mekatilili Program, which is an educational initiative that facilitates interactive workshops focused on Human-Centered Design and basic engineering concepts to improve technical expertise, nurture innovation and to promote social cohesion among the youth in Africa. In each session of the program, participants are prompted to utilize user-centered design to tackle challenges in their communities. They have been able to generate ideas like: a device to solve environmental issues caused by sewage and waste, an app to improve trash collection and management, improve road safety, solar powered systems and much more. We have reached over 250 young people (mostly young girls and women), whose average age ranges from 14 – 25 years.

I have been fortunate to travel to different countries in Africa and I have witnessed first-hand the effects of economic and technological deprivation in Africa, e.g. inadequate healthcare services, poor infrastructure and improper distribution channels for critical information and resources.  Therefore, my hope is to spearhead activities and programs that stimulate the growth of Research and Development (R&D) in Africa, through appropriate technological innovation to create social impact.