4 tools helping students learn via USSD in Africa

USSD remains the most accessible communication channel across Africa. In this article, we detail the tools that can help students learn via ussd

4 tools helping students learn via USSD in Africa

USSD is still the preferred mobile channel in Africa. Recently, more companies in Africa are realising its importance and application outside of financial technology.

We took a lot at the interesting ways industries are using USSD in Africa, but its application in the education sector stood out to us.

According to UIS data, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of education exclusion. One-fifth of children between the ages of 6 to 11 and almost 60% of youth between the ages of about 15 and 17 are not in school.

With smartphone adoption estimated to reach 84% by 2025, USSD has significant potential for bridging the education gap in Africa.

That is why we are thrilled to highlight these four African EdTech companies using USSD to bring education to students in Africa:

Eneza Education (Kenya)

Eneza Education is a web, SMS, and mobile application learning platform for students between the ages of 10 to 18 years old.

Founded in 2011 by Toni Maraviglia and Kago Kagichiri, Eneza Education is currently active in Kenya, Côte D’Ivoire, Ghana and Rwanda. It has two SMS-based products: SHUPAVU291 (Kenya) and iEDUK (Cote d'Ivoire).

Students without internet access can receive revision notes, quizzes, and learning materials aligned with the local curriculum by dialling a short USSD code.

Country

Code 

Kenya

Dial *291# from a Safaricom line or Send LEARN to 20851

Cote d'Ivoire

Send “EDU” to 90851 from any network in the country

Rwanda

Send “NEW” to 2910 on MTN and Airtel Tigo networks

Eneza Education’s pricing depends on the country, but it is mostly free as a result of its partnership with Safaricom, MTN, Airtel Tigo, and other organisations.

Interesting facts and figures

  • 11.1 million learners have used the Eneza Education SMS platform across Kenya, Ghana, Côte d’ Ivoire, and Rwanda
  • Over 2.5 billion messages have been exchanged on its SMS platform
  • 70% of Eneza Education’s users are in rural areas

Chalkboard Education(Ghana)

Chalkboard Education is a learning platform that provides universities and organisations with the tools needed to distribute content to students.  

The company was founded in 2015 by Miora Randriambeloma and Adrien Bouillot in Ghana. It currently operates in 12+ countries in Africa, South, and North America.

Although Chalkboard Education is primarily for university students, it works on any device. Students with limited or no internet connection can use SMS or a USSD code to access the content on the platform.

Chalkboard Education’s pricing depends on the size of the organisation. You can learn more about its pricing here.

Interesting facts and figures

The French department at the University of Ghana was one of the first organisations to use Chalkboard Education. During its trial run:

  • 100% of the students that enrolled with Chalkboard Education used it throughout the semester
  • 100% of students submitted their assignments on time
  • Students who used Chalkboard Education were 4 points above classes that did not.

Zydii (Kenya)

Zydii is a bit different from the other EdTech companies on our list. It is an EdTech platform that offers USSD learning, but not for students. It is a platform that provides virtual training and digital learning solutions to businesses looking to train their employees. It was founded in 2017 by Joyce Mbaya and Rhoda Kingori.

Zydii is on our list because it creates local and relateable training content for businesses that can be accessed online and offline (USSD & SMS). This is especially great for businesses and teams with limited or no internet access.

Zydii’s pricing starts at Kshs 1,500 ($15 USD) per employee every quarter.

Interesting facts and figures

  • Zydii has over 15,000 learners
  • Zydii has trained teams for businesses of all sizes including Uber Kenya and the Mastercard Foundation
  • Zydii has over 100 digital courses

Digilearns (Nigeria)

Digilearns is the youngest EdTech company on our list. It is a Nigerian-based EdTech startup that was started in 2020 during the thick of the pandemic by Favour Chukwuedo (co-founder/CTO) and Gideon Olanrewaju (Co-founder/CEO).

Digilearns uses ‌SMS‌ ‌and‌ ‌USSD‌  to deliver learning content, quizzes, and revision materials to students that do not have access to the internet.

Its content is developed by local teachers, available in 3 Nigerian languages, and approved by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Education.

Digilearns is sponsored by the UK Nigeria Tech hub start-up accelerator program, iNOVO. Students can use Digilearn by dialing *347*774# on any mobile phone with an MTN line.

Interesting facts and figures

Before its official launch:

  • Digilearn had 8500+ users
  • Digilearn was present in 774 LGAs
  • Digilearn recorded 6K+ SMS and 16K+ USDD sessions

Conclusion

Seeing as USSD is the most accessible communication channel across Africa, its potential for bridging the education gap is immense. Also, while USSD is old technology, its application in non-fintech sectors is still very much in its infancy. It is still early days and we expect to see more of these kinds of innovations in the near future.