This month, I interviewed Eric Kuto and Josphat Magutt, creators of M-Profesa. M-Profesa is a web platform that allows Kenyan students to customize their learning experience. The tool focuses in particular on exam preparation for secondary school students. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
What Inspired You to Create M-Profesa?
"The Internet has profoundly changed the way we learn, communicate, entertain ourselves and do our work. Arguably, its role as a democratizing force and the generally lower cost (of accessibility) have been major factors in boosting its popularity. As such, the Internet will most likely continue to influence political, social and economic life in Kenya just as it has in other countries.
Education however, is the one key area in which the Internet’s full potential has not yet been realized, especially in our part of the world. Relative to the developed world, cost and accessibility issues are much more important in determining the extent to which the Internet changes the lives of people, as are computer literacy, availability of sufficient technical expertise, and cultural bias towards or against electronic technologies.
Having gone through the Kenyan school system, and experiencing the inherent challenges, we concluded that existing technologies (particularly web and mobile) could help lessen some of the problems that we had faced:
- A shortage of books could be alleviated by availing the vast amounts of knowledge online
- A web application could reach many more students than a single teacher could
- The web could provide additional ways of relaying educational content
- Learning could be made adaptable to the student’s personal needs.
We'd really like to give current students the tools necessary to mitigate the challenges we faced as high school students."
What's Your Vision for M-Profesa?
As we stated earlier, the Internet is a great democratizing tool. Democratizing in the essential socio-political sense. Think of ideas like equality, openness, freedom of expression, collaboration, justice and fairness. Well, that is not quite true [yet], at least in Kenya. Let’s consider equality for now. We do not have universal (i.e, equal) access to these technologies for a number of reasons, but cost being on top. Socio-economic disparity in Kenya is quite astonishing, and to say that the Internet will rectify that situation would not be quite accurate, at least as things stand. But things can change, a little at a time, starting with education.
In addition to supplementing classroom education, we hope that M-Profesa will contribute towards progress in these areas.
Ultimately, we envision a learning platform where students and teachers can interact freely (free as in “free speech”, not necessarily “free beer”) and openly. A much higher (perhaps loftier) goal would be to introduce and lead discourse on the goals of public education and the direction that Kenyan school curriculum should take."
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