Education in Tanzania has been gaining crucial technological changes over the past decades. The government of Tanzania has acknowledged the role of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in stimulating effective learning in the modern era, via its frameworks—communicated in the Education and Training Policy of 1995, and the national ICT policy of 2016 that both embody education technology in their own manner.
In this context, Tanzania’s innovation landscape is getting better as more young people take the helm to create solutions. In this case—MyElimu and Mtabe apps, which are customized education technology (platforms) offering seamless learning materials to secondary students across Tanzania via mobile phones are gaining traction.
The communication landscape in Tanzania is growing, and numbers show this growth could turn to be a gold mine for innovative solutions such as MyElimu.
According to information from Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA), internet penetration moved up from 40 per cent in 2017 to 43 per cent in 2019, with the number of people going online to over 23 million, almost 83 per cent of whom doing so via mobile phones.
Given Edward is a young innovator from Tanzania, with aspirations of simplifying learning to students across the nation. With more than 10 million students, and he is eyeing the current ICT potential to help millions of students learn easier online.
His startup solutions, MyElimu and Mtabe apps, which can be used via a smartphone and a feature phone are germinating the spirit of adopting e-learning solutions to cut away at a number of learning challenges lurking behind classroom doors.
What is EdTech for Tanzania?
Education technology (EdTech) assumes different roles over space and time, but in this case—EdTech combines innovative learning techniques available with digital technology. Hence, combined, it presents a seamless mode of education.
According to Mr. Edward, it is not only about filling the system with the right learning materials, but it also includes having the knack of building the right infrastructure, providing the right hardware and software.
For instance, the Mtabe app gives access to students unable to get their hands on a smartphone, textbook or internet connection. More importantly it is also about answering questions about the right content, training and support.
EdTech in Tanzanian accumulates a set of roles that define its operation.
Hence—Mr. Edward’s platforms and many other solutions operating in this nation of more than 55 million finds EdTech fulfilling certain roles, including having a set of tools providing digital alternatives to delivering education to students, but also finding it an academic discipline – studying, learning and teaching methods and how to utilize them in digital form.
Also, the landscape is more of an industry consisting of educators, start-ups, and companies who develop educational technology tools.
Many educators as well as parents understand that technology has the power to elevate education. As many more competitors come into play such as ShuleDirect (an app that caters for learning materials for both students and teachers), it is no surprise that the demand for EdTech products is increasing, as it is now growing to be a global multi-billion dollar market.
According to data by Markets and Markets—a global research firm, the global education technology market is expected to grow from $43.27 billion in 2015 to $93.76 billion in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate of 16.72 per cent during the forecast period from 2015 to 2020.
This means startups offering education-related solutions could reap more benefits over time across Tanzania.
Why Mtabe and MyElimu apps matter
Access to the right and relevant learning materials is still challenging in Tanzania. With inadequate learning resources, lack of qualified teachers and poverty hampering learning performance, still there is hope over Tanzania’s education sector.
These two e-learning solutions facilitate learning in school children, according to Mr. Edward, employing a means so simple that an average African student needs no new device to get started.
Through the Mtabe app—an award-winning solution (European Youth Awards 2018), using artificial intelligence and SMS technology to deliver learning content to students in Tanzania who cannot afford textbooks and have no Internet access students can send questions via messages and get responses instantly via SMS.
These solutions matter greatly to the current landscape where schools are poorly equipped, classes inadequate with pupil classroom ratio at 1:72 (ideally 1:40) and about 20 per cent primary schools that have access to electricity.
“As the first education-discussion based platform, our goal is to support the development of world-class students. At less than a dollar, students can access our services per month” Mr. Edward said
The MyElimu app provides secondary school students with the liberty to discuss subjects that are taught in their classes; via myelimu.com students engage in fruitful discussions initiated by any member of the platform.
The website brings together secondary school students from all over Tanzania to discuss various subjects plus other academic matters. Such efforts earned Mr. Edward recognition by the Queen of England. When he started the forum it had 157 students registered from different schools but right now a minimum of 42,000 students visit the website every month.
More importantly, MyElimu.com provides a conducive setting where students can connect with others from different schools in different parts of the country and learn.
Mr. Edward believes, through MyElimu students will inspire each other and collaborate among themselves, which is a skill they need to improve and the platform makes it easier for them to understand school content.
According to a recent survey conducted by the startup, most students using the solution confess to having uplifted their academic performance and access rich learning content further than they could have accessed in the school environment.
This survey compelled Mr. Edward to keep on enhancing the platform and his startup structure as well.
Also, the platform content has been integrated on WhatsApp Messenger to give students and parents diverse access to learning materials. More importantly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the startup has enhanced its services to cater to thousands of students locked in their homes, via working with schools and teachers to provide relevant homework assignments to their students.
“Our growth approaches are horizontal and vertical-based; thus our vertical approach means moving from education to perhaps providing information or supporting other stakeholders via using core technologies we are developing with other partners. The horizontal growth from secondary school students to university level students is to provide skills related to their needs,” Mr. Edward argues.
As one of 2019 African top innovators, Mr. Edward’s philosophy is fenced around giving impact to the community as he champions offering solutions to community problems.
As of now MyElimu offers free-of-charge e-learning services to education institutions in Tanzania to reach their students during the COVID-19 pandemic