Chris Asego is the Director of Operations for Eneza Education (formerly MPrep), a Kenyan innovation that seeks to improve learning outcomes by providing students in remote parts of the country with tools that increase their access to educational content using technology many of them already own: mobile phones. He recently spoke with Daniel Plaut of Results for Development about Eneza Education’s roots and future strides.
Daniel Plaut: Tell us a little about Eneza Education’s work. What do you aim to do?
Chris Asego: At Eneza, we aim to make education accessible throughout some of the most remote parts of the world. We do this through some of the simplest technology available, mobile phones. Using technology many people already know and use, we provide educational content, based on the national curriculum, so students who perhaps lack other education resources can practice concepts learnt in the classroom.
DP: How exactly does the platform work?
CA: Let’s say you want to do a math quiz. Using your mobile phone, you would text MATH to our code number (8512). The system would then text you back with topics in the national curriculum aligned with math, you can then choose the topic you’d like to be tested on, for example: decimal places. Texting back, you’d select the topic, and receive a series of 5 multiple choice questions. After the 5th question, the system calculates your percentage, and provides you with feedback on your answers.
All of this, of course, only occurs after you’ve gone through a simple registration process. This allows you to practice concepts you learned in the classroom, and gives both parents and teachers the opportunity to follow your results, providing them with relevant data on your performance, and highlighting potential gaps in your learning.
DP: Using mobile phones to measure and reinforce learning is a very innovative concept. How did the idea come about?
CA: The idea goes back to a year and a half ago, when our CEO Toni Maraviglia was involved in a project working with girls in rural Kisumu. While there, she saw the many challenges they were going through to learn: lacking textbooks, isolated from resources, and living a long distance away from their schools. She decided to form Eneza: to provide them and other students in similar conditions with tools to improve their learning.
DP: How has the program developed since its founding?
CA: In the beginning we were just providing students with brief content through SMS, we have since developed the platform significantly, allowing for the collection of data to be shared with teachers and headmasters. From our days as a pilot program, we’ve set up a good relationship with the Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (KEPSHA) which has allowed us to have a broader reach partnering with nearly 400 schools throughout the country.
DP: What has been the overall impact of Eneza so far? How do you measure your results?
CA: At this point we have about 43,000 students registered with our platform. We are looking forward to seeing a large increase in that number as we continue to market our services. In terms of learning outcomes, we’ve developed an impact study group to measure the effect of our platform. We have gone to underequipped slum schools and randomly selected 30 students as our intervention sample to use the platform. What we have found is that not only does learning improve, but students’ attitude toward school improves as well, as they are increasingly able to go home and teach themselves.
DP: What challenges have you faced as you develop this initiative? How have you persevered or adapted?
CA: One major challenge that we faced in the beginning was being new in the market. As a small company with an unusual solution, we faced some rejection from schools where mobile technology was not allowed. But eventually, by demoing our platform, we were able to show our worth and establish trust.
We also still face the challenge of overcoming cost for the users. As a for-profit organization we face the challenge of making our product as cheap as possible for the students who can’t afford high fees, while at the same time creating a bit of sustainability for our company.
DP: How much does the platform cost the user? How much does the initiative depend on that revenue?
CA: Initially it cost users about 20 shillings (about 0.23 U.S. dollars) to take a 5 question quiz. However, we have been able to reduce that cost by forging a partnership with SafariCom - Kenya’s largest mobile service provider - to only 3 shillings (0.03 U.S. dollars) which has made a big difference. Our goal is to make the service as cheap as possible for students.
We make very little from their participation, and are now working to develop other revenue streams, including selling our data via subscription to schools and the government, stakeholders who will want to know how kids are performing. These streams will allow us to make Eneza a sustainable effort, which can continue to reach students in the remotest of areas.
DP: What do you see in the future for Eneza Education?
CA: At the moment, we are looking to do a widespread launch with SafariCom, which we believe will significantly increase our user base, and in doing so support more students throughout Kenya. We look forward to their partnership and assistance in marketing our work.
Long term, our vision is just to create a level playing field for every kid, regardless of economic or social background, location, access to resources, etc… We hope to create equal chances for each and every student.See more blogs