How EdTech can Level the Playing Field and Drive Inclusion

Kenyan EdTech Company Zeraki began where all great ideas do—with a problem. Two problems in fact.

Zeraki co-founder Isaac Nyangolo identified the challenges while working as one of the program managers on Equity Bank’s Wings to Fly initiative—an early partner in the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program. Wings to Fly is designed to provide scholarships and holistic support to high-performing students from low-income, often rural households, enabling them to pursue and complete their secondary education. So, what was the problem?

First, the Wings to Fly scholars, who had come from some of the most under-resourced schools in Kenya, needed out-of-class remedial support to ensure they were keeping up with their peers. Initially, the program organized in-person remedial tuition during school breaks, but a government crackdown on after-school tuition soon made that untenable.

The second challenge was more administrative. Wings to Fly program managers needed to receive large amounts of data from schools about scholars’ academic performance. Yet collecting, analyzing, and reporting this data was tedious, involving many manual steps.

A trained engineer, Isaac was curious about whether technology could help solve both challenges. He began exploring the idea with his co-founder, colleague, and computer scientist Erick Oude, an Equity Leaders program scholar and a mentor to Wings to Fly scholars. Ultimately, this led to the development and launch of Zeraki’s two flagship products: Zeraki Learning, a low-cost, subscription-based service that allows high school students to learn any subject at their own pace from the best teachers in their country, and Zeraki Analytics, a platform that helps schoolteachers and administrators more efficiently collect, analyze, and report data on student performance. With Zeraki Analytics, teachers use a simple smartphone to upload test scores to the platform. The data is analyzed, and SMS-based report cards are shared with parents at the click of a button. Zeraki Analytics ease the administrative burden for schools and teachers while allowing them to quickly identify issues and emerging trends, make informed decisions, and troubleshoot as needed.

In 2019, Isaac’s company joined the first cohort of Mastercard Foundation EdTech Fellows alongside 11 other African EdTech start-ups and founders. As part of the fellowship, they received $40,000 in funding, training on the science of learning and its application in EdTech, and a community of support to help scale the Zeraki Learning platform. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Zeraki Learning went from 1,000 downloads per month to 100,000 in the first month of COVID-19. With Mastercard Foundation’s support, Isaac and his team increased the Zeraki Learning content library by three times to cover 15 of the most widely taught high school subjects in Kenya. Zeraki received additional funding under the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program that helped it scale its reach to 200,000 students by the end of 2020. The platform has grown steadily since being adopted by 6,000 schools and enrolling 3 million unique users. Zeraki Analytics has grown from being used in 400 schools in early 2020 to 5,800 schools in March 2023—that’s more than half of high schools in Kenya. The platform also has a fast-growing presence in Uganda and Guinea and pilots in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania and Ivory Coast.

What makes Zeraki particularly fascinating is the kinds of schools and students that it reaches. It is easy to imagine that EdTech solutions are primarily applicable among well-resourced schools that have better access to devices and broadband internet. Yet Zeraki has managed to scale its reach in Kenya to over 50 percent of public high schools, with 63 percent of the schools they reach being based in a rural setting and having less than 500 students. Importantly, these schools, their teachers and their students are experiencing measurable impact. Schools using Zeraki report reduced time spent on administrative tasks by up to 70 percent, increased parental engagement in children’s education, and increased innovation in teachers’ teaching practices. Overall, Zeraki demonstrates that far from being the exclusive preserve of well-funded schools, Ed-Tech can help improve teaching and learning outcomes for the schools and students that need it the most and can afford it the least. Innovative, context-relevant Ed-Tech solutions can deliver inclusive access to quality education.

This year, we’ve begun scaling the Mastercard Foundation EdTech Fellowship Program by partnering with 12 African Tech Hubs to reach 250 African EdTech start-ups and founders like Isaac, with a particular emphasis on women-owned and led enterprises. These start-ups will receive funding, technical and business support, and capacity building in the science of learning to enable them to reach 1.8 million learners by 2025. We have already welcomed three partners working with us towards this goal: Co-Creation Hub in Nigeria, iHub in Kenya, and Injini Africa in South Africa, and we will be recruiting more throughout the year. The Mastercard Foundation EdTech Fellowship will continue to be a critical part of our work at the Mastercard Foundation Centre for Innovative Teaching and Learning to build ecosystems that leverage technology to drive inclusive access to quality learning at scale.


Learn more about Mastercard Foundation’s Centre for Innovative Teaching and Learning in ICT

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