Short Summary: Bridging Digital Divides
“Maybe the next Albert Einstein, or the next Steve Jobs, is living somewhere in a remote village in Africa.” - Stanford Professor, and pioneer of online education, Daphne Koller at the 2012 TED conference.
Unfortunately, awesome online content can't help these future Einsteins without a bit of creative intervention. That's where we, you, and our partners here in East Africa come in. Lack of knowledge about online learning tools, and the inability to afford to download data (especially video) are two of the largest hurdles, both of which Tunapanda is working to solve.
We are two brothers in our mid-late 20s who believe that harnessing technology to spread education is key to creating the most awesome possible future. We've been incredibly lucky to live on 4 continents so far, and had access to great educations – and think everyone else should have such access as well. So we've started telling people in Kenya about the new free online learning tools and courses, downloading the ones we can, and distributing them for free. Kenya has state-funded education through 8th grade, so we focus on teenagers who can't afford to go to high school – there are hundreds of thousands here each year, and untold millions around the world. 25% of Kenyans in 8th grade don't continue to high school, and 40% of those finishing high school do not proceed to further education or training. There is also a severe shortage of teachers, particularly in the technology sector.
We aren't limiting ourselves to East Africa, just starting here – we hope eventually our system, or something like it, can be deployed anywhere in the world, whether deep in the Congo or in any city in our home country.
Problems & Solutions
Internet is very expensive relative to income in Kenya and much of the world, even if you have an internet-capable computer or phone. And while most people know about Facebook, hardly anyone knows that Khan Academy has the entire high school curriculum, or that they can learn computer programming from top professors for free on Udacity, Coursera, or edX. In rural Kenya it costs less to buy a DVD full of video than to pay for bandwidth to download it, and DVD players are more common than home computers – we're leveraging that fact to get around high internet costs.
We also spread and teach free and open source software, and teach kids about upcoming technologies like 3D printing, so they can both start dreaming about changing the world, and actually start doing it. We work directly with students, but focus mainly on training teachers so they can spread it without needing us. Using free and open source software is more practical than philosophical – people can't afford half of their family's annual income for an operating system license, and while pirating is widespread we'd rather avoid risking going to jail or wasting time, energy, and money in legal battles. Free and open source software is just as good, if not better, in most cases anyway.
Our tag line is “Bridging Digital Divides” - because we want to connect everyone with the valuable learning resources on the internet, and also help them come online and share their unique perspectives and local knowledge with the rest of us. They have a lot to teach the us “digital natives” too.
What We Need & What You Get
FYI: Tunapanda is a Swahili word meaning “we are planting,” “we are growing,” or “we are climbing.” It's not a fish-bear.
In our Phase 1, which lasted the past 4 months, we partnered with 3 different organizations and became intimately familiar with the problems here. We've been using online learning resources to continue our own educations for at least 2.5 years, and have taken courses on at least 4 platforms, so we used that experience to spread the right knowledge and courses.
We need at least $25,000 for Phase 2, which we expect to last 4-6 months. At least half of all money raised will go to upgrades at our partners' schools, starting with TIIT – a technology school in rural Elburgon that uses 12-year-old computers and has a half-finished dorm that could allow them to accommodate 15-20 more students. You can see TIIT and hear from one of their co-founders in our video above.
The rest will go to setting up Tunapanda's central hub in Nairobi, where we'll bring local teachers and students for advanced training, work with people on the internet (like you, perhaps?) who want to help us out in our forums, get set up as a 501(c)(3) based in the US, pay for local legal & visa fees, and begin spreading regionally. We've partnered with 3 groups, detailed on our website, and have 2-3 more in mind to begin working with soon. For example, the Duke-sponsored WISER school in a far-flung corner of Kenya teaches girls STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) skills but would like to put their computers to better use.
By the time Phase 3 rolls around, we hope to have more reliable forms of funding, like committed donors and grants, as well as an easily-replicable hard drive with an easily-understood path to mastery in various subjects. Then we hope to do some really cool stuff, most of which will be copied from successful project all over the world, or which people who work with us either online or on the ground have come up with.
If you visit our website you can see more information about our management and directors, as well as a snapshot of what's in our “education on a hard drive.”
You can help at no cost by sharing this campaign however you see fit, or going to an online learning platform and taking some courses – which helps the content creators we spread improve their products.
You can also go visit our forums and start sharing ideas, or meet people in your area who would like to join you in spreading all these great tools and courses to people who don't know about them or can't afford access.