Education is the cornerstone of any country that has a vested interest in economic growth. With the tertiary dropout stats at an alarming high, it is clear that the current model for students picking career choices is somewhat faulty. Comes in Tshedza App, a virtual career coach that helps students not only pick a preferred field of study but also provides them with much needed mentorship from professionals in various fields and also access to information about bursaries that are available.
Overwhelmed by the breath taking view of the Atlantic Ocean while sitting in a restaurant in Cape Town, I got a chance to meet the engine behind this amazing app. Founder of Tshedza App Mbavhalelo Mabogo explains to Nunnovation how the journey started with developing this game changing application. Joined by Tshedza’s Marketing Manager, Mandisa Mbaligontsi we got straight to business about the inception of Tshedza and their journey so far. Tshedza, is a TshiVenda word which means ‘light’, and Mbavhi explains that he deliberately gave this app a vernacular name because it signifies the rise in innovation amongst Africans.
A mechanical engineer by profession and an MBA graduate from Stellenbosch University, Mbavhi expresses how important education is to him. The stampede that took place at UJ a couple of years ago when a mother lost her life while queuing to try and get her child placed, gave birth to the Tshedza App. An application that allows students from grade 9 right up to Matric to pick a preferred career choice based on the subjects they are doing. This app cuts out the tedious paperwork found in a University/College prospectus that most students don’t even understand, and goes straight to which career options they should consider and stipulates which tertiary institutions in South Africa offer those courses. Furthermore, career mentorship is also available and also has information about bursaries that one can apply for.
It is hard to capture the attention of young teens and that is another challenge that this app had to address, trying to get teenagers interested in school while also educating them about what is available through an interactive platform.
Some students are forced to take a gap year because they missed applying either because institutions are full or they don’t have the required subjects for their preferred field of study and it is very rare for them to resume studies after taking a gap year and these are some of the issues that Tshedza is solving.
“Tshedza App is an example of a product that is designed to go to the heart of the problem, not to solve it at the periphery, not to try and say that there is information try and figure it out. We identified the problem and it is ‘frustration’,” says Mbavhi.
“The app must alleviate the frustration from these young people, it must be intuitive, know what the student wants long before they ask it and that’s what we are trying to solve.”
The Tshedza team have been testing the application at schools as they understand that market feedback is the most important when creating a product. “The app can exist as an online mobile platform but to support its work, it must be grounded in the schools and the communities where the users come from, that’s the only way we will understand the evolution of the customers we support,” says Mandisa.
With support from institutions such as the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), Tshedza is an application that needs further financing in order to take it to the next level. The app is currently available on Google Play as a free download for smartphones running Android version 4.0 and above. It is in the running of winning the coveted SAB Foundation Award, which will be taking place in October 2015.
For more on the app visit: www.tshedzaapp.co.za
We appreciate social innovators, game changers and live savers, all the best to the Tshedza Team for the SAB Foundation competition.