International Youth Day: Transforming Education Access in Kenya
FINCA was founded on the notion of building more inclusive societies through sustainable approaches. This began by serving communities neglected or marginalized by their financial systems. Access to responsible financial services has helped turn Africa’s unemployed youth into entrepreneurs. Today, FINCA is partnering with innovative social enterprises through an initiative called FINCA Ventures to further improve standards of living across Africa, especially for youth.
This International Youth Day, the United Nations is highlighting global efforts to make education more inclusive and accessible for youth. In recognition, FINCA is sharing how Eneza Education, a FINCA Ventures partner company, is transforming education access for three siblings in rural Kenya.
Social Enterprise Brings EdTech to Rural Families
Kennedy, Martin and Eunice live in Nyeri County, Kenya with their mother, Nancy. Until a few years ago, all three children struggled academically, barely passing their classes despite hard work. Each suffers from a hereditary eye disorder making it difficult to read and focus. As a single mother, Nancy struggled to afford textbooks for her three children, a contributing factor to her kid’s weak academic performance.
Two years ago, that all changed. Nancy heard a radio ad for a new educational resource from Eneza Education, a Kenyan-based social enterprise. Eneza had developed a government-accredited education curriculum called “Shupavu 291.” This digital platform allowed users to conveniently and affordably access educational resources via mobile phones from remote communities. Crucially, this educational technology, or “EdTech,” eliminated the need to buy costly textbooks. Nancy had this to say:
When I heard it offered access to textbooks, I had to have it for my children because I could not afford to buy textbooks regularly.
Customers pay about $0.10 per week to use the platform, making it much more affordable than traditional textbooks. Students who frequently use the service have the chance of receiving credit to pay for lessons.
Kennedy, Overcoming the Odds
Kennedy, age 15, is Nancy’s middle child. His vision is the worst of his siblings. He relies on a handheld telescope to see the chalkboard in class and suffers from frequent headaches. Visits to the hospital and eye surgeries reduced his time in school. Consequently, Kennedy struggled to keep up with his work.
For a student like Kennedy, Shupavu 291 was a gamechanger. It allowed him to review missed lessons and catch up on schoolwork remotely. His grades improved from the equivalent of D to a B+, and his mother noted that his self-confidence also increased. Now, Kennedy even discusses future dreams with his mom.
My mom really motivates me. I wake up at 4 am each day and do one hour of lessons before I go to class.
Kennedy’s favorite subject is mathematics and he wishes to be an accountant one day.
Martin, Outperforming His Peers
At 18 years old, Martin is Nancy’s oldest child. Although close to graduating, he was at risk of failing many subjects. “My son had very poor grades, no goals, and he was unmotivated,” recalled Nancy. He had only a few schoolbooks and not enough for all his classes.
Martin found Shupavu 291 easy to use. Today, he is among the top 100 users in the country with the highest percentage of correct answers. He qualified for a 10,000 Kenyan Shilling platform credit (about $100) as a reward for his hard work.
Eunice, Dreaming Big
Eunice, age 10, is Nancy’s youngest child and her only daughter. Like her brothers, she long struggled with grades due to poor vision and frequent bouts of head pain. But as the youngest, she was able to learn from her brothers.
“I saw my two older brothers using Shupavu 291 and how much it helped them improve their grades in school. So, I wanted to try it out.”
With the help of her mom, Eunice began lessons and was delighted to find the phone easier to read than a textbook. Her grades soon improved just as significantly as her brothers’, and as her confidence grew, she began to dream big.
When I grow up I want to be a doctor.
A Mother’s Pride
Nancy’s three children all share her mobile phone for studying. Each kid has a time slot in the early morning, late afternoon or evening to use the phone. When asked if it was a struggle to hand over the phone to her children for their schoolwork, Nancy smiled and said, “Sometimes you need to make sacrifices.”
Overall, the benefits clearly outweigh the costs for Nancy.
“My children are now more interested in education and they have a drive and desire that is visible,” said Nancy, proudly.
I hope my children achieve their goals and are able to support their own families when they grow up.