Waterloo grads improve access to education for African students

Friday, August 23, 2019

A video library developed by three University of Waterloo graduates could transform Africa’s education sector. The graduate entrepreneurs just received $60,000 from the AC JumpStart initiative to support their business.

HITCH is an educational platform that uses machine-learning software to curate videos based on African curricula while operating independently of Internet and power constraints. 

“Sub-Saharan Africa is greatly underserved by access to information. With infrastructure deficits and significant literacy challenges, the region is struggling to educate its children,” says Uche Onuora, a graduate of Waterloo’s Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program. “HITCH addresses a number of these barriers by merging innovative technology with world-class educational resources.” 

The concept for the technology was driven by Uche’s firsthand experience with the African education system while growing up in Nigeria and later when his young son was diagnosed with autism. He decided to relocate to Canada to find better educational options and began developing HITCH while enrolled in the MBET program with classmate Steve Veerman. The pair refined the platform with another Waterloo graduate Zachary Burns and a fourth co-founder Brad Moon. 

“For African teachers, finding trustworthy resources online is a significant pain point. There’s a lot of noise online for African teachers to wade through which can be extremely time consuming and frustrating, not to mention costly,” says Onuora.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest level of online use because it lacks seamless Internet connectivity, requiring teachers to rely on outdated or foreign textbooks that aren’t aligned with African curricula. Using Hitch, teachers are able to access relevant videos to use in class and a web app allows students to watch content at school or save it to their personal devices for viewing at home.

The HITCH team has worked with over 60 private schools to develop the platform and help support the needs of Africa’s private education sector, a rapidly growing form of education throughout Africa. Future plans include offering the content and platform to public schools and other underserved communities, as well as populating the video library with exclusive educational content.

Funded by FedDev Ontario and delivered through the Accelerator Centre in partnership with University of Waterloo, AC JumpStart provides early stage technology startups with the seed capital, mentorship, and market-readiness tools needed to build a business in today’s knowledge economy.

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