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M-Shule: Delivering adaptive SMS learning & health guidance to low-income African families during coronavirus

M-Shule provides adaptive learning and health training to lower-income and vulnerable communities in Kenya through SMS on any mobile phone.

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M-Shule is the first personalized, mobile learning platform in Africa to empower every learner in Africa through adaptive learning and SMS. 

Meaning “mobile school” in Swahili, M-Shule’s platform uses AI to provide personalized training, life skills information, and data tracking over SMS and chatbots. Learners access instructional, academic or vocational content on the most basic phones, with no need for smartphones or internet. The adaptive platform uses SMS interactions to deliver self-development tools, personalized lessons and micro-courses that adjust topics and pathways to users’ individual needs, backgrounds and performance. 

For educational training, learners receive harder content as they do well or easier content if they need to build foundational knowledge. Their learning profile continuously updates their progress and selects the best next sets of content and information to maximize their potential. As learners interact, the platform analyzes data and delivers reports and analytics to key stakeholders and organizations through SMS and web. These insights allow organizations to save time in conducting M&E, identifying learner needs, and making better decisions to improve users’ economic opportunities and health situations.  

By delivering an all-in-one learning and resource platform possible with the simplest feature phone, M-Shule unlocks new opportunities for millions across Sub-Saharan Africa. 



What is the need are you focusing on?

More than 85% of Africa’s population works in the informal economy, and the pandemic has decimated their lives. Incomes are down, schools are closed, and families cannot access resources to keep learning and stay safe. 80% of the population is offline, without smartphones or regular internet connectivity; yet almost all educational and health tools are online. Without accessible, tailored and relevant learning content, children at home are at risk of falling further behind. 90% of African learners are already in learning poverty, and it may take students more than 2 years to catch up after missing a term of education. Similarly, without training and information about health and hygiene during coronavirus, families may unknowingly come into contact with and contract coronavirus. 

But 80% of the population do have basic “dumb” phones, and use SMS for services like mobile money and mobile loans. Why not personalized learning for students and health information for families? 


Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Sharing an actual pivot your organization has already made

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

With our personalized SMS learning platform, we have created a Coronavirus Response Toolkit that delivers learning to children and health training to families in Kenya, sustaining education and safe communities. We have expanded and improved our primary tutoring platform in literacy and numeracy, providing free access to learners across Kenya. As students are learning academically, we deliver child-friendly, offline health and hygiene content to families in local languages. This helps parents and their children understand the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, self-assess their own risk and take the appropriate prevention measures. We cover topics like practical "social distancing" in low-income areas, respiratory hygiene, what to do if you're at-risk, and more. These tools will ensure that families have access to the right information adapted to their environments and that educational or nonprofit organizations may keep their students, families, and beneficiaries safe from afar.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

With an accessible, affordable, and personalized education and resource tool, low-income families will ensure their educational sustainability while staying safe. We have already reached 10,000+ learners with our primary tutoring platform and increased exam performance by 20%. During school closures, learners across Kenya will maintain and grow their skills in literacy and numeracy preparing to re-enter school. Parents will spend less money on educational materials, and schools and organizations will track learners’ progress from afar. With our health information, families receive accurate, critical life-saving information about coronavirus and how to stay safe, decreasing the spread of infections in more densely-populated communities. We will reach at least 10,000 families throughout the pandemic, launching educational and health information immediately and continuing for at least three months until the curve flattens.

What is the name of your business or organization?

M-Shule

What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

As a social enterprise, M-Shule supports individuals, nonprofits and organizations that aim to efficiently reach learners with better learning and training resources at scale across Africa. Our platform serves vulnerable low-income communities, where families make less than $200 per month and members of the informal sector community have limited training. Because educational attainment is often the only path to a better life, individuals invest significant time and money into education to improve their chances of better economic situations and employability. But they are left out of the advances in technology and innovation, since most - if not all - platforms are developed for people with internet and smartphones. (https://m-shule.com)

What is your profession?

Education & social entrepreneur

Where are you located (country)?

Nairobi, Kenya

Where are you located (region)?

  • Eastern Africa

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Education
  • Entrepreneur/Investor
  • Technology

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 11-49

How old is your business/company?

  • 2-5 years old

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Funding- Loans
  • Funding- Investment
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- NGOs
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Private Sector
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Government

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • Yes

If Yes to the above, please share 1-2 sentences describing the specific help you desire.

We want to grow to new learners in Kenya as they are out of school and provide interactive learning wherever they are. Through strategic funding and collaboration during this period, we will require support in expanding our educational content and partner with health organizations to ensure critical information reaches individual families.

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

Compliance: We aim to ensure that all content and information is aligned with the national standards for curriculuam approvals. While normal content approval processes take more than 2 months, the educational authorities have recently decreased the timelines for approvals to less than 2 weeks in order to reach learners during the crisis, which we aim to participate in. Resource support: We aim to quickly ramp up the solution with individual learners and identified partners, which means that we need to invest in onboarding more team members to support learners at this time. While hiring and training during a pandemic is challenging, we have put in place robust remote working measures to ensure every person is supported.

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

Families are driven and desperately want to find solutions to the educational and health information gaps. The week that schools closed, engagement on our platform jumped 966% - proving the appetite for using a tool like ours during this time. Parents estimate their children’s learning time has decreased by 60%, and more than 70% are financially strained by having to purchase learning materials themselves. From a survey we conducted on access to health information, 60% stated they felt they did not have enough information about coronavirus and 100% had suggestions for what information they felt they needed - including signs and symptoms of the virus, how to prevent spread of the disease, and how to practice social distancing in one-room houses. 100% stated that our SMS-based platform would better educate them and their communities to stay safe and keep learning.

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?

We are collaborating with other members of the East African edtech community to put together joint responses and share learnings throughout the crisis. We are also working with a health organization in order to distribute critical health information.

Website URL

https://m-shule.com

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