NatiV: The e-learning application that wants to preserve ethnic linguistic heritage


Whenever someone talks about e-learning in Zimbabwe, the talk almost always turns to how traditional learning content specific to writing and math has been transferred to digital platforms.

This is what we have seen in most of the local attempts (think EcoSchool, e-Learning Solutions, or Big Brain) to serve this growing market which, in all fairness, is open to many more ideas and ideas. ‘approaches.

One easily overlooked area is tutoring for verbal skills and reading local languages, which guys love. Tutor Shona Ndebele was doing. Now a startup called NatiV is to solve the same problem, but with a different approach.

How a research case became a business concept

Few years ago Ian Mutamiri, an engineer (and part-time music producer) who had enrolled in a masters program at the University of Zimbabwe began research on creating affordable and convenient mobile technology to reduce teacher shortages in rural areas. His focus turned to language learning which embodied his love for sound and technology.

With the help of Dr Brooking (a former UZ engineer) and Dr Mugari, this project eventually focused on teaching native languages ​​to Zimbabwean children.

The problem that had been identified was the lack of modern digital tools and apps that preserve local native languages, help children with learning disabilities, and make learning fun and engaging.

The solution created for this was the NatiV Android application which is scheduled to officially launch in March this year and has been piloted at a learning center in old Marimba Park, Harare, called St Perez. The official download has not been extended to the general public, but those who want to try it can subscribe to the mailing list to receive notifications when it becomes available.

Mutamiri worked in this center with Jayden Shamhu, Brighton Mukorera and Tinashe Mutiwanyuka (who is in UK) to manage the technical aspects of the application. Other people involved in the app include Chipo Mkandla and Saewyd Mutiwanyuka.

The project has been started since its inception in the hope of making it financially viable after launching through tutorials given at St Perez and other learning centers to which they can extend the service.

In 2013, NatiV succeeded in obtaining $ 10,000 in seed funding from the Internet Research Fund (FIRE) and AFRINIC. This provided the resources to acquire low-end tablets that are used by the group of 30 students as part of the app pilot project.

So far, the feedback NatiV has received has increased and it is largely positive, which was also pushed back by being shortlisted for the UK Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Award for Engineering Innovation.

Ian Mutamiri admits their team has a lot of work to do over the coming year in addition to seeking more funding. After launch, they explore extending the linguistic scope of the app that starts with Ndebele phonetics, something that’s almost done. Other languages ​​like Tonga are also on the way with an iOS app also in the works.

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