Every kid deserves a quality education.
Nobody should start their lives ten steps behind.
Our world only loses when our children are held back.
This group of kids will be making decisions which impact our retirement before we blink an eye.
Best we make sure we help them take over the race with everything they need.
Unfortunately, schooling is expensive. Teachers, learning material, facilities all cost money. And we are going online. But online is also expensive and sometimes even less accessible to most kids than traditional schooling.
To those of us with privileged accessthis might not seem like a disaster. We hope that what you find in our mission is valuable to your children; but we also urge you to consider that regardless of how well our own children do, if our kids are in the minority of educated people in the next generation, this will all be in vain.
Let’s talk about Africa for a second. I am sick to death of hearing people talk about the poor, the lost continent. I have grown up and worked my whole life in South Africa and have the privilege of being travelling a lot of the continent, and meeting the most amazing people in the world. My job has me meeting industry leaders on a regular basis and I am in awe of the potentialof this continent.
My personal view is this:
Africa is the youngest continent in the world.
We all know how the kids of today take to tech right? No offense mom, but I remember trying to teach you email at 50. I gave up and my more patient wife took over. Africa’s average age is 25! The rest of the world is ageing. It’s full of people who are going to struggle with the next big thing. They need our youth and vigour. And more than that – if they want to carry on successful businesses, they need our money. This is not a plea for help, this is a rallying cry…. Africa is the future!
But who on earth are you guys?
My wife and I have a karma story. I have always been a techie, growing up in corporate jobs, doing stuff ranging from networks and computer support to development and pretty cool stuff.
Imke’s career has been significantly corporate, but she has worked with many of the large companies in South Africa developing and teaching classroom and eLearning material for almost everything ranging from safety manuals for airports, to financial management systems.
I never thought much about my wife’s job until I ended up as the head of all digital services at a well known business school in South Africa. It was here that I was asked to drive the digitization of our business education, and at the same time get our learning and development function started. Suddenly I was in charge of the things I had “yes dared” for the last 15 years, and I realized how much of a difference we could make.
At the same time, our kids had started slogging through the schooling system. At first, my attitude was on getting the boys through the system, getting them to university, getting them access to the best options possible. But karma…
My eldest was “diagnosed” with Attention Deficit Disorder. We spent two years in denial, trying diets, going to different doctors, and more, but his marks kept sliding. Eventually, a wise psychologist put it simply. She said “Adrian, this is the system they have. You either get him through, or you don’t.” It was a horrible moment. We succumbed to the dreaded Ritalin, which did make a difference, but somewhere I always thought something was wrong.
When he ended up in high school, we were told to fork out a small fortune for a type-A (whatever that was) tablet. And his marks crashed. One day, I watched him studying on the tablet. He was striping through text on a PDF. I asked him where his notes where. He said these where his notes. That was a moment for me!
A while later my second kid came home with a fail in maths. He had got 1 out of 30 for a long division sum. He didn’t understand why, because he had got the answer right and when we tested him, he could get them all right. We all know the response to this right? It’s not about the answer, it’s the skills you develop getting to the answer. so I spoke to his math teacher. I asked him if he would have got full marks if he’d used the long-division technique I learnt 40 years before. And the answer was “No, he must do it our way!” So much for learning how to build up!
Some online material
My wife at the time had seen my eldest rolling around his room with books and tablets, getting distracted by spiders and dust, and had as a test, build a simple elearning module for one of his subjects.
One day I walked in from work and there was the lad in front of a PC, engrossed. I thought perhaps it was school holidays and he was playing a game, but nope, he was cruising through Imke’s material.
Two hours later and a 10% improvement, the penny dropped.
It took a bit more karma for us to build up the courage to take this the whole way, but this year, Imke resigned and we have hired a bunch of interns to help develop material for your kids.
The more I study learning (in ed we call it pedagogy), the more I realized that this wasn’t just an extra-lesson thing. There were tools we could develop which would really reinforce the learning.
But the clock is ticking. There are many businesses climbing onto the ed-tech wagon, after a quick buck. My investment advisors are critical of our model, but we don’t want to just sell education to the rich kids, we want to get content to everyone who needs it, primarily in Africa but who cares really. We aren’t trying to level the playing field. Leveling implies dragging down those at the top. That’s the crab-bucket syndrome. you know it? Apparently it is safe to keep a bucket full of crabs in a kitchen without a lid on because if any crab is succeeding in getting out, the others have a tendency to pull it back down. It’s a zero-sum game.
We are going to Raise the Field. Sure there are people with privilege, and these kids get the best education, but even these kids might benefit from a different supplemental approach. At the same time, we want our material to be accessible to the least privileged children in the world. We haven’t worked out all the bits yet, but we are talking to funders and as we get more runway, more ideas come out, and we hope to get enough investment from companies who can partner with us, such as broadband providers, banks and even public sector, in a way which benefits not only their commercial long term objectives, but also brings the kids along.
However we think that with scale, we can do it.
Right now, we are in the process of developing multiple streams.
- Online material aligned to the current curriculm which will make learning more fun.
- A self-assessment app which allows students to test themselves and each other in a fun, gaming way
- Collaborative learning tools and a buddy system so kids can hook up with each other without worrying about “looking stupid”.
- Games to make the learning more fun. We will be creating rewards on the system for outstanding acheivement, which doesn’t only look at the top kids, but also those of you who have grown.
- Interesting characters and stories to keep the mind on the job
For the parents, we are parents ourselves, and we know how frustrating is can be to be a working family and have to come home and try and figure out why your kid was struggling with maths. Our modules securely collect detailed data which will allow parents to understand where their kids are struggling in specific detail. As we evolve the material, we have developed an approach which will also allow your children to go on the journey in multiple ways -reading, video, games, teaching others, self-assessment, and determine which methods work best for each individual.
For the schools and teachers, as we build out, this tool will allow you to hook into your students (with their parent or guardian’s permission) and both share you are in the class on any given day, as well as see how the kids are doing.
For the policy makers, when our platform scales, the nature of our data will allow you to pull information which will give you deep insight into the impact of policy changes in the education system, demographically, geographically, and across curricula.