Accelerating education that prepares learners for future work
Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.
Initiative's representative name
Nkosana Butholenkosi Masuku
Initiative's representative date of birth
Initiative’s representative gender
Which eligible market are you based in?
Where are you making a difference?
Website or social media url(s)
When was your organisation founded?
Helping people adapt to technologies of the future
Reskilling and upskilling the workforce
Start-Up (first few activities have happened)
Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)
Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?
1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed
As a teacher from rural Matopos in Zimbabwe, I realised a problem in the education sector. Rural students do not have the opportunity to experience applied learning experiences of what they learn. You realise that there are a lot of learners who have never had the opportunity to travel out of their surroundings, which makes science learning very abstract and difficult. Above all, the learners don’t aspire to engage in “first world” careers such as astronomy, robotics engineering and many more due to the lack of exposure. The most difficult thing you can do as a teacher is to teach uninspired students. This is why I started Phenomenon Technologies. To empower and enable globally competitive learners through the use of future technologies.
2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?
Digital technology continues to improve in Africa, whilst 67% of sub-Saharan Africa is made up of the rural sector. Learners in the rural regions are not being trained for digital literacy which is bound to create a problem in allowing them employment in the future of work. Furthermore, the students do not have the chance to dream and gain inspiration to advanced fields of study which can provide more sustainable job opportunities for them.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Phenomenon Technologies provides learners with low-cost virtual field trips which are immersive and interactive through virtual reality technology. These field excursions are designed to educate and train learners about the emerging job industries as well as present opportunities for them to have a deeper understanding of how their science learning relates to these careers. The experiences are presented to the learners in a gamified manner which also allows them to draw interest in the follow-up research activities they must complete. Phenomenon Technologies, through FundoVR, creates virtual reality content which allows learners to play roles of different career professionals by applying problem-solving techniques. The experiences are then followed up by post-tests which involve an ongoing research work from the student in relation to getting acquainted with digital skills. FundoVR is delivered to the learners through virtual reality headsets at their schools and this has also allowed students to gain awareness on such emerging technologies as they get to interact with the hardware and software presented to them.
4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?
Kwazinkosi Ndlovu is a learner at the National University of Science and Technology in Zimbabwe studying computer science. She previously learnt at Lubhangwe secondary school, a rural area in Matopos. She was one of a few students to get virtual reality experiences about fields in Robotics when the Phenomenon Technologies team visited her school in 2018. She had no prior knowledge about computer systems and robotics but ever since she experienced a virtual reality game based on programming robots she immediately fell in love with them. Kwazinkosi and other students who have experienced FundoVR in rural communities have been inspired to uptake advanced fields of study as opposed to the generic careers which the students were only exposed to.
5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?
The immersive nature of FundoVR provides learners with low-cost field excursions which highlight the practical applications of science. Through 360 videos and game-based approach, we are then able to train learners on the fundamentals of different careers related to the 5th industrial revolution. In order to improve employability amongst rural students, the greatest aspect to that barrier is inspiration, because 90% of the learners do not understand why they go to school which has severely limited their potential. With the FundoVR platform, learners experience a world of possibilities into how science is applied throughout the future job market, exposing learners to the job industries from a yearly age.
5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress
The startup provides skills for job markets which include robotics, emerging technologies, artificial intelligence and big data. This is delivered through high-quality Virtual reality videos and games of real-life applications of the skills as well as their relation to science learning. When learners are provided with the FundoVR experiences, a follow-up assignment (continuous) is given to the students which allow them to gather more data and information related to the experiences. Progress on their digital skills career is then measured every school term through their teachers by post-tests.
7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?
In Zimbabwean context, we have hubs such as the Techvillage innovation hub who are addressing such challenges by providing digital skills training to students as well as Ruzivo education which is an online learning platform for students. Their approaches are different to the proposed project as their model has been on providing digital learning skills to students from urban areas through coding tutorials whereas the FundoVR provides an interactive approach into problem-solving for rural-based students through the use of emerging technologies.
8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
FundoVR has since been registered in over 200 rural schools in Zimbabwe and directly impacted over 20 000 high school students into expansive career development of digital skills. 1000 learners have progressed into the career development of future digital skills at University level which include engineering, robotics and computer science. The platform has since won 2018 African Union top 10 educational innovations, Ashoka Africa Champion Award, UNWTO top 5 tech innovations and 2019 Creative Business Cup Zimbabwe. Phenomenon Technologies was in 2019 accepted into the Google Launchpad accelerator program due to the innovation of FundoVR for developing and inspiring digital skills and science learning to underprivileged learners. UNESCO provided Phenomenon Technologies with an opportunity to also train teachers from across Zimbabwe on using FundoVR to prepare students for future work.
9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?
The project is currently self-funded as it delivers excursions for the fraction of actual field trips. Schools pay for virtual experiences at $5 USD per learner. The medium and long term plan involves partnering with organisations who sell education products and services for advertisements as the FundoVR userbase continues to grow. Startups will also be approached to provide scholarships where students intern at their companies "cost-free" during school breaks to improve their digital literacy skills.
The team is made of 4 full-time employees and 2 interns who deliver excursions to schools. As CEO, I have a background in Secondary Education. The Chief Technology Officer is a mobile developer with years of experience as well as a teaching background. Project manager and Marketing manager are the other 2 fulltime positions. The board consists of the Deputy Minister of education in zimbabwe and Innovation lead at UNWTO. The team will consist of more sales, developers, region managers as it grows
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