[Startup Interview] Cavin Mugarura, CEO, Skooldesk, Uganda
Tell us abit about Skooldesk and your role in it
Skooldesk is an e-learning platform that was primarily developed to help young learners at primary level of education improve their grades in English, Math and Science.
Better grades are the final outcome but the real aim is to provide additional learning materials to what is available in the classroom. The platform has practice tests that help kids build their confidence in the comfort of their own homes or a school computer lab. This is radically different from the typical examination setting which is intimidating and also known for sending chills and shivers down the spines of young children.
Upon completion of a test, the results are automatically graded. The platform has analytics that can identify strengths and weaknesses of a child at subject and topic level. We also have interactive content that makes learning fun based on the gamified methodology. This makes our content engaging instead of relying on the traditional teaching methods solely.
Why was it formed and to what extent has it achieved its purpose?
Across Africa proficiency levels in English and Numeracy are low. For example, in Zambia, just 2% of 15 year old schoolchildren achieve minimum proficiency in mathematics, compared to 77% in OECD countries, while in Senegal, just 9% achieve minimum proficiency in reading, compared to 80% in OECD countries. We are still in early stages but we know we are on the right path, the alternative of course is easier to do nothing, and this is not in our DNA, we have to keep innovating until we get it right
How big is your reach?
Pilot was done in Uganda, and we hope to expand to other markets across the continent by the end of 2020. Obviously this can be fast tracked if we identify the correct partners.
What is Skooldesk bringing to the market that isn’t present at the moment?
Prior to developing this platform, we looked around for similar platforms, not only in Africa, but Asia, Europe and North America. We found many interesting edTech platforms but none of them made the mark, if we are to change the landscape of education in Africa.
Even when you look at mature EdTech platforms like Khan Academy, they havent created any meaningful impact, and their platform is very basic. We have the largest repository of learning materials, and these are curated not simply dumps, our platform is accessible to kids with visual and hearing disabilities.
Very few platforms on the market can boast of an analytics suite, but our main concern is not the competitors since the field is very big, there’s a lot of room for good products. Parents and schools are free to decide what platform provides value for money.
What do you consider the biggest threat to your business?
I don’t see any threat. They are many alternatives on the market but no one is using them. They don’t even have 1% of the market. Most are poorly designed and will fail within a few years. They are challenges such as high costs of internet, but the prices reduce every year. For example Internet speeds in most developing countries are cheaper and faster than certain developed countries like Germany where I have worked before.
What kind of collaborations do you expect and need for Skooldesk to succeed?
Collaborations are welcome but they have to come from like minded organizations that share our vision and route to market. They are so many experts in Africa, who have no clue about the landscape, the type of solutions needed and what can make a difference. Most of them have seen Africa through Television outlets like CNN but they don’t have a firm grip of the what is happening on the ground.
Where are your plans moving forward?
Our plans are motivated by ensuring we have a robust product that provides value. Without providing value we can pack our bags, our motivation is to make money but develop a product that every child can use to improve the English, Math and Science.
What is the latest news from Skooldesk?
We are testing a virtual tutor where a student can ask questions, it’s still in early stages of development, but its a very promising and exciting project with good results.
Who should contact your company, and why?
Anyone who thinks Technology has a vital role to steer Africa in the right direction. Technology is not an end in itself, and too many people make the mistake that Technology can leapfrog best practices. Classrooms and public libraries are critical components in the education eco system. The mobile phone or computer can only provide a complementary role.
Africa Business Communities is conducting a series of interviews with startup businesses in Africa.
Are you a startup in Africa and interested in an interview? Great! Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org