Given Edward couldn’t have got off to a much better start after the Tanzanian launched his social enterprise MyElimu in 2014. Within one year, he had received an award from the British Monarchy.
Edward was one of 27 Africans recognised as “exceptional leaders in their community” by the first ever Queen’s Young Leaders Award, being presented with the prize by Queen Elizabeth II herself.
That success has inspired Given to push on with his project and turn MyElimu into a success. Eighteen months after winning the award, the platform now connects more than 13,000 students every month, and has more than three million visitors a year.
The platform enables Tanzanian students to conduct discussions online from distant places.
“One student could be at home, the other on the bus to home or school, and the other one at a beach somewhere, and they would all be able to interact instantly at the same time,” Edward tells Disrupt Africa.
By connecting students, MyElimu aims to allow students to collaborate in understanding and using content. Aside from the discussion platform, MyElimu has also recently launched two sub-projects: Instaclass and Videonotes. Intaclass explains class concepts through 15-second videos on Instagram and Twitter, while Videonotes offers 15 minutes animated videos explaining school notes.
Though Edward says there are a number of startups across Africa helping students get access to learning materials that are doing a great job, before MyElimu there was arguably no single startup connecting students to enable peer-learning across distant schools.
“That’s the gap we saw when we started MyElimu,” he says.
Certainly a sizeable gap if uptake is anything to go by. The self-funded startup has been able to rely on advertising revenue to sustain itself as companies look to tap into the number of young Tanzanians using the platform, with Edward currently looking into partnerships to help further his plans.
“We currently work in Tanzania mainly, though we have a few students from Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Rwanda using the platform. Expansion is in our plans but there are a few things we need to do first before that,” he says.
“As we are self-funding, it becomes a challenge to do efficient marketing and develop the product further. It’s a challenge to monetise without compromising quality and it’s our goal to keep the student first above everything. That’s why we are keeping the relevance of the adverts, as well as not putting unaffordable prices on the students to use the platform. The platform is currently free and we intend to keep in that way for most part.”
To use the platform, a student visits MyElimu, either through the web or its mobile apps, and can start or join discussions. As the discussion goes on, the conversation starter can mark a contribution from another student as ‘best answer’, allowing other students to see what was generally considered as the right approach. The student can download a discussion as a PDF for later reference, and email it to other peers.
Edward says the success of the platform is proof that young Africans are able and willing to use the internet for productive purposes, suggesting a bright future for e-learning on the continent.
“Young people are hungry to use tech for something other than just entertainment. Also, it is important to consider context in terms of content and cost when working with students, or else you might be providing expensive half-baked solutions,” he says.
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