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SOCAP11 Social Entrepreneur Spotlight: Toni Maraviglia, M-Prep and Bridge Beyond (Kenya)

SOCAP September 2, 2011

Blog Post: Why should people care?
In Muhuru Bay, Kenya, students are desperate to find any means possible to study. That’s right, STUDY. While so many kids in the U.S. cringe at the mere thought of having to study for their classes, the 400 eighth grade students that I worked with want so badly to achieve. Many sleep at school, using the extra night hours and the kerosene lamps of the school to “prep” for the nationwide exam that determine whether or not they go to high school. It is an exam that essentially, determines their futures. Some kids walk hours to borrow review books from wealthier students; others travel 40 kilometers down battered dirt roads, hitching rides from 5-seater cars smashed with 13 people. They are anxious to get to a commercial center. They want to buy books to study.
Kenyan kids in rural areas are determined to academically succeed.
What I realized, however, is that Kenyan kids living in rural areas, my kids, need a better way to “prep.” (Excuse any use of possessives while talking about students; teachers often become possessive about their students. As educators, we realize that other people’s kids quickly become our own.)
I lived in a hut with an eighth grade boy named Daniel. His father was one of the chiefs of the area, and thus, the family was well off in relation to the community as a whole. But donkeys still brought our water from Lake Victoria, we still had no consistent source of electricity, and we still used firewood and charcoal to heat our food. We were still impoverished. And Daniel, as “well off” as he was in the area, still managed to fail his exit exam from eighth grade, called the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education exam (or KCPE for short) the first time he took it. He needed a better way to study.
Thus, we thought of the idea of what is now M-Prep, a mobile phone application that is completely aligned to the Kenyan curriculum and that allows students to review for their exams via SMS messaging.
Sure, students don’t have books. But they have phones.
Every single student I asked in every rural Kenyan village I visited said that s/he had access to a phone, usually a parent’s phone. That’s great news.
M-Prep is different from other educational technologies in rural developing areas because it does not focus on “giving” or providing free technological products. It focuses on providing a service on devices that students already have or have access to.
M-Prep offers access to educational review in a way that completely fits with the Kenyan National Curriculum. It is designed by teachers and is meant to supplement their learning. M-Prep is affordable, allowing students to pick and choose which subjects on which particular weeks students need to review. Kids don’t have to buy expensive books or travel long distances to get it. And M-Prep is fun. Had Daniel, or another student that failed their KCPE exam, been able to study on his parent’s mobile phone, he probably would have spent a lot more time reviewing. Phones are like toys. Kids love them.
Accessible, affordable, fun.
So, why is this all so important to social capital markets? Why should people care? From what I know after living and working in Kenya since 2008, Kenyan students: A.) Want to succeed and B.) Don’t have the means to do so. When you provide access to education in communities that are considered “hardship” or “remote,” the communities develop. Students learn how to help their communities and find ways to develop the community from within. And while infrastructure is great, and health is important, education spawns social entrepreneurs, like all the people attending SOCAP.
Education develops communities. We should care about that.
 
 
 

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