Since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic in Kenya, the government shut down schools among other measures as it rushed to contain the spread of the virus. Globally, more than 1.2 billion children are out of the classroom as education changes with distinctive rise of e-learning-where teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms.
While this sudden shift to virtual learning is being driven by Covid-19, two years ago an innovator thought of how he could make use of technology to take education closer pupils. “I grew up in a rural setting where I used to walk more than eight miles to get to school. It wasn’t one of the best schooling experiences one could dream of. I am now motivated to change these experiences and make learning more exciting to students,” says David Waweru, a business executive and one of the co-founders of Software People which runs MySchool solution.
MySchool is a Zoom-like virtual solution but tailor-made for schools. It has functionalities that enable teachers to write notes on a whiteboard, share screen, schedule assignments, and examinations for students without limits on the number of classes or users on-boarded. Students can also easily interact with their respective teachers, make notes, and ask questions among other class activities.
With popular research suggesting that e-learning increases retention of information among students and takes less time than traditional models of teaching, the innovator argues that the development of MySchool was timely. “Students will have more interactive hours with their teachers and increased safety as they’ll be learning from the comfort of their homes; teachers will also have common resources which can be shared with students either real-time or on-demand. Parents will also make some savings due to reduced cost of learning,” he shares.
He is also confident that with the solution, better learning outcomes for students will be achieved faster since students are usually fascinated by technology and use of advance learning techniques.
With its key target market being learning institutions at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, MySchool is specific on its core mandates and does not collect data for use in marketing or for other commercial purposes. Waweru says the startup’s systems are hosted in secure servers in India but has a technical team that manages the servers locally in Kenya. With such virtual platforms being a soft target for hackers, the firm has adopted high-level security protocols that are in compliance with international standards. “We are very keen on security and we ensure that the data on our servers are safe, site well protected and uptime extremely high,” says the 42-year-old executive.
So far, MySchool is in use at several schools within Nairobi and a number of others across the country. Its market uptake has been gradual due to the current financial constraints related to Covid-19. “We are mitigating this with our subsidized pricing model,” he notes adding that, “The initial approach was to have a one-off license and charge an annual maintenance fee but we have realized most schools are low on budget as parents can’t afford to pay much due to the economic effect of Covid-19 pandemic.”
The startup also targets a slice of the corporate market with a virtual conference room solution. “This solution is a good fit for companies that aim to interact seamlessly with their staff and also for functions like meetings, events, conferences, and AGMs among others,” says Mr Waweru, who started the company with a group of friends two years ago. “By then we were still employees and we were running the startup as a side hustle. Over time, we resigned from our jobs to fully focus on the business.”
While 90 percent of start-ups in the world fail within 5 years after establishment, according to Forbes, Mr Waweru together with his team has laid out a resilience strategy, to dodge the current ‘new normal’ business shockwaves and shifts in consumer preferences.
“We have mitigations in place. We are boosting the adoption of our product as a solution in a time of a pandemic. We have a strong governance framework with a strong board of directors of diverse professional experience to advise on decisions. Our solution is also affordable,” he expounds.
Software People is a well diversified company. The company’s financial sector division for instance targets banks and MFI where it provide solutions in mobile money integration, SMS solutions, internet banking, and agency banking , among other channel integration software solutions.