Deborah Mulungi had gone shopping in a local supermarket when she met a fine lady wearing a T-shirt with the inscription – Izere Education. Curious, Mulungi stopped this lady and asked her what Izere Education stood for.
“She told me about many things but I had never heard about Early Childhood Development. She told me that they work as a social enterprise aimed at transforming education in under-served communities to realize quality 21st-century learning outcomes for all,” she recalls.
But the most amazing part of this Edu-Tech platform was that parents were being empowered to save money using their phones and later pay school fees for their children.
“I got interested. I enrolled my sibling in this program and it has been of great impact. If they talk about nurturing children, especially helping them to develop 21st-century skills, it is remarkable,” Mulungi says.
“They give children the ability to be creative, innovative, and confident,” she says.
“The good thing is that you can enroll your child and pay in installments. You may not prioritize it, but if you see what your child goes through, you need to invest in it. If you are appreciative of personal development, then you can be willing to sacrifice what you can to ensure that your child grows up as a responsible person in this competitive world.”
Shamim Nirere, the Team Lead at Izere Education, notes that most times, these quality learning opportunities are missed by the have-nots because of the extra money one is supposed to pay for an extra enrichment class.
So, they decided to come up with a mobile solution under the Edu–Tech platform targeting parents struggling with school fees in public institutions, which are expected to be cheap.
“We have set up an Edu–Tech platform powered by FinTech solutions and reaching schools to extend our solution, communities to set up innovation spaces for young people, parents to enroll their children in our online academy and pay online, and trainers to get their money electronically,” she says.
“We are now getting to the ground in communities to get parents to save some money on their mobile money wallets for school fees.”
And Mulungi emphasizes that every parent should give this service consideration because it offers much more than ordinary routine classroom education.
“A parent who thinks that a child’s destiny is determined by academics, I don’t think that is right. Google can give us the academic answers that we need but in the 21st century, we need competitive skills to survive,” she says.
Started in 2016, Izere has evolved to offer solutions that drive communities to the vision of quality 21st-century learning outcomes.
Nirere says that when the world was met with the Covid-19 pandemic, they got a boost in numbers and 2020 was their best year because most people realized that they can do much with technology like studying, paying online, making orders, etc.
“We have so far reached close to 5,000 young people and hope to reach 20,000 by the end of 2023. This is because we are running community programs and reaching a wide range of young people in 10 districts in Uganda online,” she says.
She adds that they are currently working with different aggregators and payment gateways such as SchoolPay and Flutterwave.
“But in the near future, we shall design and roll out our own wallet that will make payments much easier for the users of our solutions – content creators, teachers, parents, and students.
Nirere nonetheless says that the biggest challenge is the inability of some parents to understand their service of holistic education.
“The journey of enrolling young people on our platform is not an easy one. First of all, some schools provide mainstream education with traditional subjects. So, parents often ask if we are a school and not many understand what we do,” she says.
“But Covid-19 was a time for people to understand that there’s so much learning that can be done online. They later realized that there’s a new set of skills that our people need,” she says.
She also appreciated the organizers of the annual 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative for shining a light on players in the FinTech space.
“This is helpful because most times, people build in silos yet whatever they are working on is already out there. It has also made it a lot easier to see people do things differently and share ideas. It has also helped to demystify FinTech,” she says.
Izere Education is the 34th participant in this year’s 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative organised by HiPipo in partnership with Level One Project, Mojaloop Foundation, INFITX, Cyberplc Academy, Ideation Corner, and Crosslake Technologies with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Now in the fourth season, HiPipo’s 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative has become a household name in the financial technology space of the East African region. In the last three editions, more than 100 FinTechs have been showcased, highlighting stories changing people’s lives, especially in the under-served sectors.