A team was launched last Tuesday to spearhead an ambitious programme to connect all primary and secondary schools to the Internet in 10 years.

Education permanent secretary Karega Mutahi introduced the 30-member team, headed by Ms Mary M'Mayi, at Kenya Institute of Education and announced that six schools would benefit from a pilot programme to be officially launched on September 29.

Kenya is among 16 countries selected to benefit from the first phase of the e-initiative by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

It has up to December to start the pilot scheme to improve access to education and equip young Africans with information and communication technology skills.

Secondary schools are to adopt the programme in five years and primary schools in 10. Africa has 600,000 schools.

Kenya's Nepad secretariat chief executive officer, Ms Grace Ongile, and Ms M'Mayi named six schools ˆ Maranda Boys (Bondo), Isiolo Girls, Mumbi Girls (Murang'a), Menengai High (Nakuru), Chavakali Boys (Vihiga) and Wajir Girls ˆ for the pilot programme.

The infrastructure, including buildings, furniture and fittings, electricity and IT equipment, are to be enhanced.

The programme is to provide knowledge and real-life experience by implementing information communication technology (ICT) in schools across Africa that will inform the model for a large-scale roll-out.

Prof Mutahi said the Government had entered into an agreement with Microsoft to supply computers to schools and that Sh1.5 million had been released to buy the machines.

"We are committed to integrating ICT into our education system and are investing in access, equipment and skills," the PS said.

The Government, he said, had teamed up with parastatals like Kenya Airways, Telkom Kenya, Kenya Airports Authority, Kenya Revenue Authority and Barclays Bank to improve ICT infrastructure nationwide.

The ministries of Education, Finance, Health, Information and Communication and Planning were supporting Nepad's e-initiative to help fight poverty, Prof Mutahi added.

Currently, he said, all teacher training colleges were offering ICT courses and that teachers would in future be required to be ICT- literate.

The other countries in the first phase of Nepad's e-initiative for schools are Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Lesotho, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda.