Connecting parents to their children’s education
For every additional year that a girl stays in secondary school, her risk of contracting HIV is reduced by one third. In Tanzania, however, thousands of female students are dropping out of school each year, despite government policies, interventions, and commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals. Part of the problem is a lack of parental involvement in their daughters’ education. Students whose parents are actively involved in their education are more likely to attend school regularly, take advanced classes, and excel academically. They are also more likely to graduate from high school and attend post-secondary school and tend to have better social skills and fewer behavioral problems. Schools also benefit when parents are involved in their children’s education. Research indicates that parent involvement contributes to higher quality education, higher standardized test scores, and more effective academic programs.
Photo Credit: Vitalis Kihinja
Although parental involvement is an important contributing factor to keeping children in school, parents do not always know when their children are missing school because there is no easy way for them to access attendance records.
As a software developer and young entrepreneur, Wilson Mnyabwilo wants to use data and information technology to encourage parental involvement in children’s education to reduce truancy and school dropouts among Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW). His mobile application, Infoshule, allows low income parents to track their children’s daily school attendance, even without an internet connection. Infoshule also provides a powerful cloud-based solution for schools and higher education institutions to reduce staff workload and improve efficiency with an automated time and attendance system. The system can analyze student absences, help set targets for improvement, identify functional solutions, and help administrators assess progress towards improved school attendance and reduced dropouts.
The Infoshule team gathered information on the root causes of school dropouts from former students, their parents, schools, community stakeholders, and government representatives.
Lack of community involvement in education contributes to school dropouts. In our survey of four secondary schools in Zanzibar, we discovered several schools that were not ready to share information about students’ attendance or academic performance. This finding led to the development of Infoshule, with the aim to increase data transparency among parents so that they can make wise decisions about their daughters’ education and prevent dropouts.
Infoshule users include parents, teachers, and the Ministry of Education. Teachers mark attendance and continuous assessment through the web and Android applications, while parents use basic feature phones to access their children’s attendance and academic records.
Infoshule requires the combination of a powerful cloud-based application and a telecom connection so that the end users (parents) can use mobile phones to track their children’s attendance, view their performance (grades), class timetable, and school calendar. Infoshule also allows parents to pay school fees using mobile payments. It includes teachers’ contact information and school SMS notification to parents and terminal reports. Through this, parents can track in real-time their children’s attendance and performance, which will help them support their children’s education.
Infoshule was already implemented in Tanzania mainland with 20 active schools in Lindi, Dodoma, and Mwanza. In this phase, Infoshule is being implemented through a partnership with the Ministry of Education in Zanzibar with a pilot in 25 schools: 20 government schools in both rural and urban areas, and 5 private schools.
Outcomes and Impacts
Infoshule is intended to increase parents’ awareness of their children’s school attendance and performance, one factor that has been linked to keeping children in school longer and therefore to a reduction in their risk of HIV infection. Infoshule alerts parents when their children are absent from school, helping them to quickly take action to monitor their children’s behavior. By providing an academic progress report, Infoshule also keeps parents well informed about their children’s academic journey, replacing the traditional paper report forms, which children can forge or hide from their parents.
Wilson Mnyabwilo is a Dodoma University student and CEO of Bwilotech Co. Ltd. His own experience dropping out of school has driven him to make innovative tools that prevent other students from dropping out. Wilson and his team received a grant of USD 25,000 from the Data for Local Impact Innovation Challenge (DLIIC), along with technical support and mentorship.
DLIIC aims to engage, support, and connect Tanzanian innovators, developers, and solution providers to each other and to opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives. To learn more, visit http://www.dliinnovationchallenge.or.tz.