Aware of the major role played by digital technology today, and of how essential resources can be offered online in much more comprehensive ways, Kudzaishe and Bongani asked themselves how it could effectively help young Zimbabwean students. This is how the “My Digital Backpack” project came into being in August 2019. This educative digital project is a free integrated online platform that aims to provide young students with the right educational tools to achieve academic excellence.
“My Digital Backpack” revolutionizes the way in which academic knowledge is provided to students while offering quality academic content adapted to each student, and contributes to reduce the educational resources inequality gap across all economic backgrounds. “My Digital Backpack” intends to give a little push to African students by giving them the opportunities to achieve their ambitions.
“Our main goal is to provide African students with what conventional education agents have failed”
The project, which has already been implemented in numerous schools in Zimbabwe, was one of the finalists for the Yale Young African Scholars (YYAS) Program Impact Project in 2019. A programme aimed at supporting young African leaders to achieve their academic and professional ambitions.
Today, in the context of the global pandemic of COVID-19, the “My Digital Backpack” project is all the more relevant at a time when going to school can put the health of students at risk.
Before you tell us about your amazing project, could you please introduce yourself to the AMI readers?
Kudzaishe Bhuza (K.B.): My Name is Kudzaishe Bhuza, I am passionate about using technology to solve problems and make the world a better place. I am the co-founder and CEO of My Digital Backpack.
Bongani Dube (B.D.): Hello world, my name is Bongani Dube, I am an entrepreneur, artist, tech enthusiast and adventurer. I am the co-founder and chief technology officer of My Digital Backpack. Its honour to have your audience.
Have you always been interested in new technologies and in digital tools?
K.B.: Definitely, from a young age I've always been captivated by the wonders of digitization and technology.
B.D.: Yes, I've always been a tech aficionado, from as soon as I could use a computer.
Could you tell us about “My Digital Backpack”? How does it work exactly?
K.B.: “My Digital Backpack” is an interactive comprehensive digital movement that caters for the diverse academic needs of students from academic and extra-curricular resources to available opportunities in a non-taxing and user-friendly environment, thereby reducing the education inequality gap in terms of resources.
B.D.: “My Digital Backpack” functions via a three-pronged approach; Firstly, it provides online and offline study resources in the form of material/notes produced by actual students with examination experience complimented by seasoned professionals in the education field through the official website and the offline application respectively. Secondly, it is conjoined with a facility for scholarship and career guidance also using the same media. Lastly, it is a springboard for the development of young African students who wish to engage in any programs related to literacy and education. It essentially offers information on various aspects of the subject matter.
How and when did you have the idea to launch this project? Who are you working with on this initiative?
B.D.: Coming from a school and education system that had little to offer on comprehensive digital study materials and even devastatingly less on opportunities such as scholarships and various other programs, we realized this was a huge factor impeding youth progress so we decided to fill the void. Today we work with various organizations such as schools and other benefactors such as Mtshabezi High School, in Zimbabwe Higherlife Foundation scholars, Yale Young African Scholars Program and GoDigital Zimbabwe, just to name a few, as well as our team of committed young professionals and consultants.
Who are the instructors/teachers behind this programme? What courses do you offer with “My Digital Backpack”?
K.B.: The “My Digital Backpack Team” is filled with youths with a track record of exceptionally high academic achievement. These team members have completed some of these courses on the Cambridge and Zimbabwean curriculum and are using that experience to produce content for the courses that we offer. However, we also work with teachers and school heads from all of Zimbabwe who help us standardize our content.
What age range do you intend to reach with your project?
K.B.: We intend to reach a majority of the active school-going populace (aged 13-18 years) – which is also the age when most Zimbabwean students drop out of school with lack of resources being one of the major factors.
Is MDB free? And if so, how do you manage to sustain it?
K.B.: “My Digital Backpack” is a non-profit organization which does no charge any fees for our student beneficiaries. So far, we have managed to secure partnership and sponsorship deals that have enabled us to sustain and grow.
How many students are benefitting from the project thus so far? Have you gotten any feedbacks from them on how you could potentially improve the project?
K.B.: So far, we have over 2,000 users using our website. On WhatsApp we reach out to over 200 people daily updating them on available opportunities and get Academic notes requests from over 1,200 students monthly. Our mobile app which is currently available on our website and which is undergoing beta testing has 100 logged in users. Our Public Relations team is constantly getting feedback on WhatsApp as this is an integral part on our growth.
How many schools has “MDB” been implemented in? Was it difficult to convince Zimbabwean schools to use “MDB”?
K.B.: “My Digital Backpack” covers the two most used curriculums in Zimbabwe, that makes it available for any school or student to use. We have managed to establish focal point persons per province in Zimbabwe.
How is it possible to have access to “MDB”’s services when you don’t have a steady connection to the Internet?
B.D.: It is possible to access our resources in two ways; through our offline application that contains the bulk of our resources and secondly, via our cheaper more affordable social media platforms.
What are the ambitions of this project and what you would like to achieve with it?
K.B.: Our main goal is to provide African students with what conventional education agents have failed while revolutionizing our education system by offering a wholesome approach to student needs that is tailored for them and is relevant in this century, as we reduce the educational resources inequality gap across all economic backgrounds. We noticed that “It is not that African students are unable but it is because they are not aware of the opportunities waiting for them and do not have the resources to assist them”, our hope is to solve this problem.
Do you plan to expand your programme to other African countries?
B.D. : Since the problems we seek to solve in our own country also plague other African countries we believe our model can be replicated and tailored to each nation to meet it demands.
Do you think that digital initiatives have a crucial role to play in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic? And if so, how?
B.D.: Utilizing such resources that may not be available in the tangible classroom is key to improving education. In light of this Global Pandemic, digital technologies have helped keep education alive by overcoming the distance gap and can do more such in future to aid education.
What are your plans for the future?
B.D.: We envision an evolved interactive fully digitized continental response that caters for Africa’s diverse education needs and encompasses the full spectrum of students expectations and ambitions with regards to their resources.
Where can we get information about “MDB”?
K.B.: You can visit our website and social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) on to get more information about our organization. We are very active on our social media handles if you want to talk to our Public Relations team, feel free to WhatsApp this number (+263 77 860 7141)!