M-Shule: Kenya’s ‘mobile school’

I’ve been hearing more and more about Kenya being a hub for tech startups. So, I was curious to use this analysis as an opportunity to investigate Kenya’s EdTech scene. I landed on M-Shule. I was impressed that they found a simple, digital learning solution that sought to include the most disadvantaged students:

Adaptive learning software via SMS.

Many EdTech ventures in developing countries hit the snag of requiring significant digital infrastructure. However, not only are smartphones, tablets and laptops prohibitively expensive for many, internet access is unaffordable… when it is even available. In Kenya, 1GB of data costs 18% of the average monthly income.

The beauty of M-Shule is that it relies on local tech strengths: most Kenyans own or have access to at least a basic mobile phone, and use SMS already for communication and money transfers. By leveraging these existing tools and habits, M-Shule has been able to provide an affordable, personalised learning aid that has the potential to improve access to education, improve student learning, and build community. At a profit.

As a bonus: their platform allowed for the expansion this year into healthcare communication. In addition to providing support through school closures, M-Shule has been able to share critical health information with remote communities through the pandemic. I am genuinely very excited about this venture.


A significant portion of my background research was on strategies to ensure that learning technologies are appropriate and effective for the community they are meant to serve. In particular, the One Laptop Per Child case highlighted the importance of thinking beyond technology. The Pathways for Prosperity Commission report “Positive disruption: health and education in a digital age” was particularly useful for me as a reference on how data-driven technology can be used effectively to improve education in developing countries.

For my opportunity pitch, I am toying with the ideas of either looking into the use of technology for better teacher training in developing countries, or how to improve marine science communication and action on a global scale. Both of these concepts will require effectively introducing technologies in developing countries, as well as an understanding of how investors critique potential ventures.

Three key points from this exercise stand out to me:

  1. Context: It is important to consider the local context prior to implementing new technology. By taking advantage of existing infrastructure, systems, habits and culture, new technologies are easier to onboard and more sustainable. Clearly identifying a problem is crucial to choosing the appropriate technological solution (if the solution even is technological).
  2. Partnerships: Eneza Education’s (the competition) partnership with Safaricom illustrated to me just how lucrative the right partnerships can be. Finding sponsors and partner organisations can provide significant resources that can make or break a venture. When proposing a new venture, it will be important to consider and communicate what partnerships I am seeking.
  3. Hats: This was the first time I’ve ever had to put on an investor hat. It is easy to be passionate about an idea, which makes it that much more difficult to look for reasons to not support it. Listening to How I Built This‘s episode about Method cleaning products, the founders said they gave their idea to 20 of the smartest people they knew and asked them, “why will this idea fail?” As an entrepreneur, it is critical to look at the venture under the lens of an investor and consider the weaknesses.

~ Jessica Daicos

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