Addressing the shortcomings of the country’s education system is the credo of many young innovative companies.
Kenyan schools are on fire and luckily start-ups are not looking elsewhere. In the summer of 2016, the dormitories of around 100 schools were set on fire by their own angry students, raising concern in the country … but also arousing the interest of many young innovative companies.
Because generalized “burn-out” does not come from nowhere. “In Kenya, only primary school is free, classes are overcrowded with an average of 50 students for a teacher. There is no individual support and only 20% of students go beyond high school, ”recalls Michelle Wangari, operations manager at Eneza Education. This start-up (whose name means “to broadcast” in Kiswahili), catapulted by the press as “the first African online review platform”, is one of the many young shoots of Silicon Savannah in Nairobi who have decided to make a fortune by remedying the shortcomings of the Kenyan education system.
Eneza, founded in 2012 by an American professor and a young Nairobi-based developer, already boasts more than 1.7 million users. The company offers any Kenyan student between the ages of 10 and 18 a school support service that works entirely by SMS. The principle: for 10 shillings per week (less than 0.9 euro), the student receives a series of revision exercises and homework on his phone, in the form of multiple choice questionnaires (MCQ) and open questions, adapted to his level of study, to which he replies by SMS, before receiving an answer key combined with mini-educational lessons. “Our students spend an average of two hours on Eneza, two or three days a week. We also have a few users who use it four and a half hours a day! », Says Michelle Wangari.
Good student of the continent
In one of the most connected countries in Africa, where 90% of the population owns a cell phone, the idea has caught on. Yet with an 86% primary school enrollment rate (seven points higher than in sub-Saharan Africa) and prestigious higher education institutions, such as the University of Nairobi, the country was among the continent’s top performers. . “But the system is too centralized around the KCPE and KCSE [equivalent of the patent and the baccalaureate], seen as sesame for employment. Students feel like they are gambling their lives on exam day and are forced to study from 8 am to 10 pm every day on their own for weeks on end, learning all the questions and answers by heart, ”recalls David Adula, education journalist for the daily Daily Nation.
“There is an urgent need for individualized support,” concludes Michelle Wangari. Thanks to Eneza’s “Ask The Teacher” mode, students in difficulty can ask, again by SMS, for advice from the forty or so teachers employed part-time by the start-up. The application is intended to be as interactive as it is fun and builds bridges with Kenyan news: a text message game developed by Eneza, called “Where is Madame Mandizi?” “, Thus portrays a greedy official who stole 44 million euros initially intended to repair schools and pay scholarships that the student must help capture. Something embarrassing to remember: in 2015, five thousand baccalaureate candidates had their results canceled for purchasing the answers from employees of the Ministry of Education, forcing the government since then to store the subjects in metal containers placed under police protection.
But Eneza is not the only start-up trying to make a profit at the expense of a struggling Kenyan education system. Another application developed in Nairobi, called Enewa (“understand”), available on computer and tablet, provides students with 15,000 questions asked in KCSE exams between 2000 and 2014, sorted by difficulty and subject. “The student can pick questions appropriate to their level. It helps to be more efficient so as not to learn everything by heart, ”explains co-founder Mike Kiprorir.
Other start-ups are struggling to introduce digital technology into a still very traditional system. Thus, eKitabu (“book”, in Kiswahili), based in Nairobi, which sold digital textbooks at broken prices (a few cents to ten euros), to 650 schools in Kenya, but also in Uganda and Rwanda. and Ghana. Or BRCK, specializing in portable routers, and which today offers schools across the country a “Kio Kit”, containing forty tablets and a WiFi station allowing any class to be transformed into a “digital classroom” of the 21st century. century.
These start-ups, which thrive on the failure of the educational institution, will they transform or kill the Kenyan school? “We are only here to complete! We stick to Kenyan school curricula, ”swears Michelle Wangari. In any case, it will be necessary to pass the steep pass of profitability. Eneza, despite its success, is not yet turning a profit and, with its dissuasive price (110 euros per year) – more than a month’s minimum wage – has only attracted two hundred subscribers. BRCK refuses to reveal its sales figures – perhaps disappointing – of its “Kio Kit”, which still costs a trifle of 5,000 dollars!
But, for everyone, there is no question of stopping there. “We already have pilot projects in Tanzania and Ghana,” explains Michelle Wangari. There is a market of 112 million young Africans for our products. We are targeting at least half of it. “
Find out more on http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2017/02/01/des-start-up-au-secours-de-l-education-kenyane_5072980_3212.html#4s48VGjPo6FMWUb3.99