A young female professional has invented an innovative start-up online technology to promote the use of the diverse indigenous languages in Africa.
Called Vambo Academy, the initiative is the brainchild of Chido Dzinotyiwei, a Master of Commerce student at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business. She joins a growing number of young African women who are using their innovations to empower communities to address their pressing local needs. This also ties in with the idea of using local or indigenous languages to teach science and technology as English language constitutes a serious learning barrier to majority of learners on the continent.
Making learning fun
Explaining it further, Dzinotyiwei said the initiative is an educational technology (EdTech) platform that provides digital resources to support language learning and translation. It aims to make learning language a fun experience and it is designed to be highly interactive and engaging. Dzinotyiwei said she came up with the idea of a start-up to make learning African languages and cultures accessible online.
“Africa is the fastest growing and second largest continent in the world. Sadly, African knowledge resources are difficult to source. At Vambo Academy we aim to bridge that gap and make learning fun,” she said. The project has recently won her a place into the final round of the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity competition, scheduled later this month.
Improving access to education
She says what makes her platform unique from others is the fact that she leveraged the power of technology to address one of the serious challenges on the continent: access to education. She says she and her team are in the process of developing a tool that allows users to translate a language of their choice to enhance their learning experience.
“We’re also working on using technology to improve traditional learning methods, and with this we are discovering new and innovative ways to teach indigenous languages,” said Dzinotyiwei. Over and above teaching indigenous languages, said Dzinotyiwei, the platform also offers a dictionary service, as well as blog posts and podcasts on relevant cultural topics.
“Students have the opportunity to learn a new language in one of two ways: using the self-learning tool and learning at their own pace, or they have the option of booking a virtual session with an experienced tutor for a one-on-one, personalised learning experience,” she said.
Motivation for the idea
Asked what inspired the idea, Dzinotyiwei said it is the acknowledgement that education is central to any nation. “Yet, there remains large gaps when it comes to access to education on the continent, and language is one of the main barriers preventing students from pursuing their dreams. We developed this platform to provide students with the necessary resources to learn an indigenous language, and to improve their skill set,” she said.
In addition, she said their aim is “to preserve our heritage; so many African languages and their heritage aspects are fizzling out”. Said Dzinotyiwei: “none of us should ever stop learning about our culture and heritage because knowing where we come from is important.”
More significantly, she said her hope is that the venture will help stimulate the creation of opportunities for talented individuals like writers, poets, teachers and translators, and to use this as a vehicle to venture into the world. “We hope to demonstrate that African solutions backed by technology can make a difference in societies,” concluded Dzinotyiwei.