Picture this scenario: You are a single mother working hard to provide your child with the best education. You know that it’s only a good education that can give your child a chance to a better life- much better than the one you are living. Textbooks KES 8000 yearly. School fees KES 52000 yearly. Tuition KES 24,000 yearly. What happens when you meet a rough financial patch and can’t afford the bare essentials? Education is what takes a backseat in most cases.
Jane Wanjiku, mama Imelda, is one such parent. Her daughter had to be sent away from school and she was contemplating relocating to the village due to financial pressure.
We partnered with Safaricom, our Kenyan Telco giant in 2013 to scale access to quality, affordable learning to the under-served. Since the partnership began, we have reached 2,394,980 unique users on Shupavu291, our core mobile learning product. Shupavu291 is a SMS/USSD subscription service allowing learners to access bite sized learning through SMS, on the simplest of mobile phones. Learners can also access Wikipedia without internet connection.
In 2014, before Imelda Mumbi – then in class 4, was sent home, a group of our field agents went to their school to introduce Shupavu291. Imelda started learning on her mother’s phone. “She was busy every time on my phone”, mama Imelda told us.
As expected, every parent would be concerned if their child was always on the mobile phone. So Jane sought to know what her daughter was doing on phone. “She told me she was studying”, she adds. As expected, she was skeptical, and wanted proof that her daughter was actually learning and not wasting study time on some mobile games.
When Imelda went back to sit her end of year exams, she topped her class with 391 out of 500 marks. Imelda was so active on the platform, daily appearing on the top ten most active list on our leader-board. We decided to follow her up as one of our super users. To date, Imelda’s performance keeps on improving.
Imelda is just one of the many students who have benefited from learning on Shupavu291. Students from Daadab and Kakuma refugee camps also benefit from Shupavu291.
Our mobile learning platform is designed to encourage learners’ interest. We have incorporated a gaming aspect to the product. Finding Ms. Mandizi is a game which allows learners to unlock stories with every quiz they take. It involves an African villain who stole funds meant for free primary education. The top 10 most active student also encourages learners to take more quizzes. We also have a new addition, the African Literature. Learners unlock folktales, proverbs and riddles after hitting targets set on the platform.
There’s also the Ask-A-Teacher feature in the product. This is a live chat with our teachers who answer curriculum and non-curriculum questions asked by students. We have trained teachers who respond to these questions daily from 8am-9pm. They receive responses in 10-30 minutes.
To register on Shupavu291, you dial *291# from any Safaricom mobile phone. The subscription service costs KES 1.43 daily for access to unlimited SMS content aligned to the Kenyan 8-4-4 syllabus.