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BLACK MARKET

Tablets from Kenya’s failed digital literacy program are now being sold in Uganda’s black market

REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
Get it for a quarter of the original price.
  • Faustine Ngila
By Faustine Ngila

East Africa 4IR Correspondent

Published Last updated

Irate Kenyans have taken to social media to vent their anger over reports that government tablets meant for grade one pupils have been spotted on sale in Uganda’s black market.

On a Facebook page named ‘Uganda 2’ where Ugandans buy and sell electronics and automobiles, a user who identifies himself as Emmanuel Watile and based in Kampala placed a price of $79 for each tablet which he says has a “64GB storage running on Windows 10” and compatible with “all laptop plugins.” “Quick cash needed…”

Watile, who describes himself on Facebook as a salesman at BF Suma Africa and Radissons Beauty Products, went ahead and deleted the post in the page after a day but that did not stop Kenyans from questioning him about the source of his supplies.

Most of them were angry that their children did not benefit from the tablet project even after millions of dollars of tax payer money were spent to purchase them.

Others wondered why the directorate of criminal investigations never arrested the people behind the sale of government property.

The tablets were being sold for as low as $35 per piece, but government spokesperson Cyrus Oguna told a local news site that the state was in the dark about the crime but promised an investigation would be done. “We are not aware of the matter as it has been brought to our attention.”

In 2016, thugs stormed into four primary schools in the western county of Bungoma which borders Uganda and stole the tablets. Only 71 of them were recovered last year at the border.

Dreams of millions of pupils were killed when the project collapsed

In 2013, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta campaigned on a platform of digital literacy, promising to supply all primary schools in the country with laptops for grade one pupils.

But after winning the top seat, his government realized the promise was far-fetched and instead promised to buy the pupils tablets at a reduced cost of $144 million. From 2016, 600,000 units were to be issued to pupils every year, but the project was discontinued in 2019 and the money redirected to the construction of computer labs before all schools were supplied with the devices.

Before launching the project in 2013, the Kenyan government ignored the challenges of theft, corruption, low penetration of electricity and difficulties in equipping teachers with digital skills. These hurdles combined to kill the dreams of millions of pupils.

With elections coming up next month, this is a reminder of  various scandals that have plagued the government.

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