As MPrep—an SMS-based quizzing and tutoring platform—crosses the 10,000-subscriber mark across 400 schools in Kenya, the award-winning team behind it is hard at work bringing smarter, affordable schooling where it’s most needed.
Though Kenya has emerged as a regional powerhouse for mobile innovation, many of its future visionaries remain burdened by the structural challenges—overcrowding, underfunding, and lack of access—facing the 9 million Kenyan children in primary school.
The problem is especially daunting in rural areas, where more than two out of three current students will fail their classes, including 80 percent of girls.
In response, MPrep founder Toni Maraviglia designed the app to make it possible for teachers to deliver quality, one-on-one attention to students, and to monitor their performance in detail, even remotely—all just a text message away in a country with widespread mobile access.
Though initial impact studies have revealed that MPrep helps individual students improve their scores in English, math, Kiswahili, and science, Maraviglia sees the app as a sort of R&D lab for smarter, data-driven education on a much larger scale.
In an interview last summer, Maraviglia sketched the vast data mines beneath MPrep. As it helps students learn, the app also generates troves of raw data on the lowest- and highest-performing schools, the most difficult subjects for all Kenyan children—and the resulting lessons for educators everywhere.
The startup has grown steadily since raking in a number of awards last year, including the top prize in the Mobile Society category at Pivot East—East Africa’s premier mobile development conference, organized by mLab East Africa.
Most recently, MPrep was one of 14 startups accepted to the next class of the Unreasonable Institute, a six-week mentorship and acceleration track where high-impact entrepreneurs can build relationships with investors and tech leaders.
In the institute’s first challenge, the team must now raise $16,500 to cover the cost of their stay. As of this writing, they have seven more days to achieve their fundraising goal.
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