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Online Learning Blossoms in Zimbabwe
July 14, 2015

Teresa Mbagaya at lectern (Courtesy of Teresa Mbagaya)
Teresa Mbagaya at the launch of EcoSchool (Courtesy of Teresa Mbagaya)

A growing number of young Africans are building innovative technologies and businesses. In Zimbabwe, online learning blossomed under Teresa Mbagaya, a 28-year-old Kenya native who in 2013 launched Econet Education, which offers free and reliable access to more than 50 online education services featuring video lectures by university faculty and other educational materials accessible to anyone, anywhere.

The youngest executive to lead Econet Education, Mbagaya was named one of the “30 most promising young entrepreneurs in Africa 2015” by Forbes business magazine.

Econet Education subjects range from test preparation to how to start a business, to agriculture, engineering, medicine, languages and music theory. The service even has an early education section that includes sites for kids run by National Geographic magazine and the American Public Broadcasting Service.

Its EcoSchool section offers tablets on which students can access textbooks at low cost.

“The idea behind EcoSchool goes beyond simply making books available at a cheaper price,” Mbagaya says. “It is part of [a] strategy to help students and their lecturers gain access to materials and courses from across the globe.”

The EcoSchool tablets and software significantly improved the learning experience, especially for girls who could not stay late at libraries. With the lightweight, portable devices, they could study after school at home and pay as little as $6 a month for study materials.

EcoSchool includes a textbook library, an educational chat platform allowing social interaction between students on study material, and an online education resource center so users can check for faculty-related resources on career development and study programs from global sources.

“EcoSchool offers digital education for all, giving you access to quality information, anywhere, anytime. Think of EcoSchool as education for the digital generation,” the service states on its website. So far, EcoSchool is available only to Harare-based Econet Wireless subscribers in Zimbabwe.

Recognizing Mbagaya’s  entrepreneurship in information technology, Microsoft recently named her head of education for East and southern Africa.