The Role of Girls’ Mobile Phone Use to Increase Access to Educational Content After School: A Capabilities-Based Evaluation in Nairobi

Ronda Zelezny-Green

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis evaluates the development outcomes of an action research intervention implemented during the after-school hours at and near a girls’ secondary school in Nairobi, Kenya. The intervention and its design was grounded in the capability approach, the people-centered perspective of human development articulated by Amartya Sen. The aim was to help 22 girl research participants lead lives they had a reason to value by investigating how they might increase their access to educational content after school. The work to realize their chosen development outcome was facilitated by the introduction of two mobile learning applications, biNu and Worldreader, for after-school use in the girls’ homes. Data collection was undertaken during after-school hours and in three phases over 13 months using mixed methods including mobile ethnography, app usage statistics analysis, in-home participant observation, and an innovative method for operationalizing resource-based agency adapted from a capabilities-based research project with children in India.

Through application of Dorothea Kleine’s Choice Framework as both an analytical and evaluative lens for operationalizing the capability approach, it emerged by the study conclusion that time and mobility were the most influential factors to affect the girls’ ability to sustain appropriation of the two apps. These factors shaped the expansion of choice unevenly among the research participants, particularly when combined with deeply embedded discourses, informal norms, national policies, and school as an institution in the research context. Age and gender were two personal characteristics which also had a substantial effect on the development outcomes realized. The study serves as further evidence that enhancing a girl’s agency by augmenting her resource portfolio is insufficient to bring about educational empowerment if the structures within which her resources are utilized after school remain unaltered.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Kleine, Dorothea, Supervisor
  • Willis, Katie, Advisor
  • Winters, Niall, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Jun 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017


  • girls' education
  • gender
  • mobile learning
  • after school
  • capability approach
  • Choice Framework
  • Kenya
  • Nairobi
  • policy
  • international development
  • mobile phones
  • secondary school

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