Safaricom's M-Pesa Foundation Academy in Thika will serve as a benchmark for Kenya's secondary schools' reform, Education Secretary Fred Matiang'i has said.
Dr Matiang'i said the Ministry of Education will use the school in Thika, an industrial town 42km northeast of Nairobi, as a benchmark for ongoing reforms in the secondary school curriculum.
He said the academy's student-centred learning approach is partly what the ministry intends to attain in the new curriculum set for launch in January.
Dr Matiang'i spoke during a short visit to the school on Wednesday, accompanied by ICT CS Joe Mucheru and Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore.
He said the school's approach to learning provides the students with an opportunity to discover and nurture their talents.
This is done through a special focus on leadership, technology, entrepreneurship training and co-curricular activities alongside normal learning, he said, noting that it is what the ministry intends to achieve with the new curriculum.
The mixed boarding secondary school offers a fully sponsored 8-4-4 system of education to needy students and those with disabilities from all the 47 counties.
The school is owned and bankrolled by the M-Pesa Foundation, a charity organisation established by Safaricom in 2010.
iPad for each student
Every student has an iPad, full access to the internet which they use to conduct research.
For them, a typical class does not involve a teacher standing in front and reading from notes. They follow through the lesson from their iPads.
They are accredited on Microsoft products and go through a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics course through which some have built robots to do certain tasks.
"The changes we are making in our curriculum are intended to have a similar approach to learning, we want to get to a point where we move away from a teacher-centred form of instruction training to a learner-centred form of instruction training," he said.
"This is the kind of a students environment that we would want to see in all the schools in the country.... I must say that no other school matches what I have seen here today. The students are confident and they are able to speak up," he added.
Dr Matiang'i directed that principals from other schools go through a daylong benchmarking at the school so that they can apply the mode of teaching used at the school.
"Much as a government we may not have all the resources required to get to class sizes of 32, rather than complain we want to find out how we can best make use of this resource and opportunity so that we can enhance this kind of learning in the country," said the CS who was also accompanied by officials from the ministry's quality assurance department as well as those from the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development.
The mixed boarding secondary school was established in February last year with an initial intake of 94 students from poor backgrounds in addition to those with various forms of disabilities.
This year's intake was doubled and currently holds three boys and three girls from every county in addition to various students with physical disabilities in forms one and two.
The total cost to establish the academy will be about $50 million dollars once all infrastructure is fully established.
"We are already in discussions to have those who wish to proceed with university to gain full sponsorship in some US-based universities.
"We are also planning on how to create a funding for such students, where those who wish to establish businesses will access starting capital," said Les Baillie, M-Pesa Academy's chief executive.