Dar es Salaam — Seven years ago when Ms Faraja Nyalandu, 35, was conceiving an idea on digital learning to enable students access materials easily and without difficulty, little did she know that one day she would be called to a global forum to showcase her impact to society as a young global leader making the world a better place. Ms Nyalanadu, a trained lawyer and former Miss Tanzania-turned digital entrepreneur, has been named by the World Economic Forum (WEF) among 115 influential people under the age of 40 who have made a difference in society. She was among the 11 from Africa to make the list.
This year, two people from Tanzania have been named by the forum, including a mosquito biologist and renowned researcher from Ifakara Health Institute (IHI), Dr Fredros Okumu, a Kenyan whose work has been globally recognised in researching the effectiveness of mosquito nets, the evolution of Insecticide resistance in mosquitoes and methods of trapping and killing wild mosquitoes.
Each year, the Forum of Young Global Leaders identifies most promising leaders under the age of 40 - people driving innovation for positive change across civil society, arts, culture, government and business, with the aim of creating a ripple effect over five years that benefits their organisations and the world.
Previously named by WEF in this caliber of young Tanzanian leaders are the current Minister for Investment, Ms Angela Kairuki, Bumbuli MP and former environment and uniom ministedr January Makamba, businessman Mohamed Dewji as well as Ms Elsie Kanza, a former advisor to President Jakaya Kikwete who is now serving the same organisation as a Senior Director and head of Africa. In an interview with The Citizen, Faraja Nyalandu spoke of how her digital innovation, Shule Direct, has impacted over 2 million students, 24,637 teachers as well as 72 schools and centers across Tanzania, at a time when the country is facing a myriad of challenges in the struggle to ensure universal access to education. She believes, being selected by WEF as an influential leader is an opportune moment for her to show the world the immense digital opportunities that Tanzania can leverage to increase access to quality education for millions of students who miss out in the learning system.
"The goal is that through capitalising on one's talent we can influence positive change in our communities and the world at large," she says. Ms Nyalandu will later in the year join her peers at the WEF, a global platform that will connect them to a community of remarkable nobles and investing further in their leadership abilities.
She says that the digital innovation movement in education that she has been leading in her community is aimed at creating a ripple effect over five years (2020-2025) for the country and the world at large. "It is such a great honor to be named one of the young global leaders as is the fact that we can use our voice to advocate policy and strategies for social development," said Ms Nyalandu.
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Establishing Shule Direct, she says, started with conceptualising how to help young people learn better and easier. "I was looking for a tech solution that would influence learning and facilitate youngsters development both socially and economically," she said. It is a program that provides learning materials for students in accordance to the curriculum.
"Even students who are not able to attend classes due to different inconveniences such as pregnant girls can learn and keep up with their fellow scholars," says Ms Nyalandu who serves as the Shule Direct Executive Director.
Mrs Nyalandu says, "The program delivers qualified educational content that serves as a supplementary for learning and revision for students and a teaching resources for teachers in Secondary Schools in Tanzania".
She says it was also a tool designed to assist teachers from upcountry regions to have an easy access to the curriculum and updates in the education sector provided by the government through the ministry of education. "It can also be used by parents because it is very crucial now that parents be tech-savvy so that they can assist their children in their learning process,' she added. So far, 100,000 users have downloaded the App on Goofle Play.
Through running this idea we researched in what angles students likes to learn and perform, for example we looked on their interests, technology position in their learning process, and the art of peer discussions.
Ndoto Hub is one of the products that she contribute in designing aimed at giving young women with innovative ideas exposure to grow. Mrs Nyalandu said, "We also give young women entrepreneurs opportunity to business technical skills, advice and how they could manage their ideas into fruition," Through digital community the platform also offers an online business development support to entrepreneurs and connection with mentors from different fields.
Ms Nyalandu is an award-winning social entrepreneur married to a well-known politician and former cabinet minister Lazaro Nyalandu.
Talking about her husband's support in her endeavors she said, "I am grateful to find someone that recognises my responsibility as an entrepreneur and ready to show support when needed."
She also said the good supporting system created by her co-workers, friends and family members keeps pushing her to achieving her goals.
"I think it's special when you have a group of friends and colleagues that support you in that," she said.