Toni Maraviglia, CEO of Eneza. chicagoideas.com
Speaking at the Fifth Global Forum on Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship in East London, South Africa, Maraviglia, a teacher dedicated to increasing the pass rate of Kenya’s primary school children, explained the evolution of Eneza and what is coming next on the platform.
She said Eneza will soon be launching its “ask a teacher” feature.
“This is my favourite part and its launching in about two weeks, where students actually get to ask a question to a live teacher during study hours. This is really, really cool,” said Maraviglia.
Despite Maraviglia not wanting Eneza to be defined by the technology it uses, she said it was built up from a SMS platform to both a web and mobi site service.
Eneza is currently being built for the Android platform. “So no, it’s not just SMS anymore.”
Concerning her journey from village teacher to app builder, Maraviglia said: “When I first moved to rural Kenya about four years into my teaching career in 2008, I had a huge goal of increasing the passing rate of the primary school students in the community. They have to take an exit exam in order to get to secondary school,” said Maraviglia.
“In the community that I was in only about 14 per cent of the kids passed.”
She said despite having increased the pass rate from 14 per cent to 48 per cent in two years, Daniel, a Kenyan child living with her at the time, who she described as her “brother”, spoke English to her daily, but failed the exit exam.
Maraviglia went back to New York City, in the United States (her home country), between 2009 and 2011, but was back in Kenya for a visit in 2011 when she noticed the technology landscape had completely changed.
“Even in the most remote villages, almost every single adult had a simple mobile phone,” she said. This prompted her to think: “How do I expand this educational program that I started in one village to other areas throughout rural Kenya”.
“I actually stepped into the m:lab in Nairobi and I met somebody called John Kieti.”
Kieti took note of Maraviglia’s background in teaching and told her she should consider a mobile phone application in education.
At the time Maraviglia rejected the idea of an educational mobile app because “teachers don’t like technology, I would never use something like that in my classroom”.
However, Kieti encouraged her to consider something she would use.
Ultimately this led to the creation of Eneza, which was first called M-Prep. Maraviglia said many people question her about what Eneza essentially is.
“A really smart person told me: Never define your company by the technology that you use - it will kill you later on. Look at Apple versus Dell. Apple is a movement, Dell is just a computer,” said Maraviglia.
She added: “Eneza itself is a movement to make quality educational resources accessible to students, teachers and parents in the most remote regions of Kenya and soon to be Africa.”
Furthermore Maraviglia said: “On the teacher’s end (of Eneza) there’s a whole bunch of crazy amazing analytics... that I wish I had as a teacher.”
The analytics include the progress of the students in their subjects and their progress on the quizzes.
“We’re making it into a huge network of teachers, students and parents who can all access this. We’re launching the Eneza network this week.”