Wambura Kimunyu: Making Rural Students Smarter during COVID-19
Howdy Earthlings, I’m Spiffy – your interplanetary journalist and #1 learning fan! Did you ever forget your notes at somethingi before a big test? For students living in rural areas ugh without wifi, that’s a serious problem. Fortunately, Eneza Education is providing a way for every student to access their materials and I got a chance to speak with their CEO, Wambura Kimunyu!
SPIFFY: Hello Wambura, thank you for meeting with me today. I’ve heard you’ve made a big splash by making edtech available to more students, how do you address this challenge?
Wambura: We provide access to quality, affordable learning resources via basic, widely available technology. We digitize the local curriculum into bite-sized modules and deliver these via our platform to any mobile phone, however basic. You do not need access to the internet to access our platform or content.
SPIFFY: And what motivates you to do this?
Wambura: I am motivated to do what I do because as Mandela said: "Education is the most powerful tool that can change the world." I personally don't understand why access to quality education should be determined by how wealthy your parents are. Every young person deserves access to a quality education that equips them to become a productive and involved citizen, no matter their economic background. That's the world I want to live in, and therefore that is the world I am here to help build.
SPIFFY: I hear what you’re saying, but it sounds so hard… how do we reach EVERYONE and make it fair?
Wambura: That’s a great question, Spiffy. Unfortunately, digital interventions often surface and exacerbate existing inequities in education access when learners from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are unable to leverage digital learning resources due to limitations such as lack of a smart device, no internet connectivity, the high price of data and lack of reliable electricity supply. At Eneza Education work to bridge that divide by delivering learning resources via SMS to even the most basic mobile phone.
SPIFFY: So Eneza tries to reach the lowest common denominator? What is a milestone you’ve reached this year?
Wambura: Exactly. The most important part of our story this year has been our ability to add value and support learning during the pandemic. In Kenya a telco partnership enabled us to open up our platform to learners across the entire country for 5 months, enabling us to reach millions of learners with vital learning resources. We've also recently launched our platform in a 4th country, Rwanda, in partnership with Mastercard Foundation and hope to reach millions of learners there as well.
SPIFFY: Your commitment to equity makes an even bigger impact during the pandemic, tell me about when you’ve encountered failure. What did you learn from the experience?
Wambura: When I first joined Eneza I realised at once that centralising and simplifying how we collate and report our data was a task that needed my attention. I allowed other things that appeared more urgent to move this important item down my priority list. When I looked back four months in, I realised that not tackling it cost us a great deal of staff energy and a lot of resources. It was a good reminder of Mark Twain's advice to eat the frog first thing in the morning.
SPIFFY: Haha! Of course, taking on the uncomfortable tasks earlier will prevent problems down the road. What’s something that you learned unexpectedly?
Wambura: A good friend dropped a gem on me recently. She said: "Be comfortable with being uncomfortable." It was exactly the wisdom that I needed at that moment. It was a timely reminder that venturing down new paths or trying new things can be uncomfortable and my focus shouldn't necessarily be on finding the shortest path back to comfort. Being uncomfortable is okay. It has completely changed how I face all the new territory that's opening up in front of me.
SPIFFY: Thank you for all your wisdom!
Wambura: You’re welcome any time, Spiffy. :)
Wambura, who has held several senior leadership roles within the tech startup space in Africa over the last 10 years is now CEO of one of Africa's leading edtech startups, Eneza Education. (Wambura was nominated for this interview by Nisk Capital)