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Faraja’s job is driving change through innovation

THE year was 2013, and a young, energetic and determined woman came back home after spending some four years in the United Kingdom studying law.

The young woman was Faraja Kotta Nyalandu.  Coincidentally, that was the year when Tanzania had experienced one of the worst Form Four examination results—many failed.  The situation clicked into Faraja’s brain, and she decided to do something about it. 

With the experience she had in the UK and knowledge on the kind of technology to improve education, she started thinking about what she can do to contribute to solving the problem at home.

While studying in the UK at the University of East London in 2009-2012, she had to learn on how to rely on online resources because she couldn't engage much with others in discussions.  Being a wife and a young mother was challenging. She was nursing two children and had to be with them most of the time after her lectures.

She believed and still believes that technology can make things happen fast and in a bigger way.  She remembered how online resources helped her in the UK to multitask and come out with flying colors.  She wanted to give the same opportunity to young girls and boys in Tanzania.

She thought that digital learning platforms can come in and enable students to access qualified learning content following the curriculum.

This is how Shule Direct was conceived. It is an organization committed to providing comprehensive web and mobile educational platforms offering learning content across multiple subjects. 

Seven years down the road, the organization is thriving.he organization delivers qualified educational content that serves as a supplementary for learning and revision for students and teaching resources for teachers in secondary schools in Tanzania. 

Her efforts got recognition this year after Faraja was named by the prestigious World Economic Forum (WEF) as among 115 influential people under the age of 40 who have made a difference in society.  There were 11 people from Africa on the list.

It wasn’t easy. 

Like other startups, the beginning was very shaky.  In one of her Instagram posts, Faraja (35) explains how people discouraged her from hearing her wild dream.

"Some told me I wouldn't make it because I was not a computer scientist, an information technologist, or an education expert," she remembers. They did not let her pull out of her determination.  The urge to play her part was so strong.

“I saw it as an opportunity than a challenge. You don’t need a certificate to know and solve problems facing students, teachers and the education system as a whole,” says Faraja, a former Miss Tanzania.

Her work, she says, is to partner with others and strive to blend technology with education and get the best results possible.

On passion

She loves what she is doing. It is a passion for her.  “Everything that you are doing has to be channeled from something within, and it is important to be able to find where you can be able to pick your energy, hard work and resilience,” she says, adding that unless you find something that can be fueling that every day, it is actually going to be very hard to perform at your utmost best.

Faraja explains that it doesn't matter what someone studies.  Education should be just a stepping stone.  The knowledge she got helped her to channel her passion and aspiration. 

“Education is a tool to help someone become a better person, perform better and excel in whatever field he/she would like to be doing,” she explains.

Faraja explains that knowing your passion starts with becoming aware of how you like to spend your time, understanding your sphere of thoughts and sphere of decision making, which she says some people call it soul searching. 

“By knowing things that tick you and things that make you happy, you start understanding things that will make your work life,” the entrepreneur who also holds a Master’s Degree in Law (2013-2014) from the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) says.

Faraja believes that the responsibility to improve the education system entails every citizen. Shule Direct continues to respond to the needs of users.  For example, efforts have been done recently to set up a software where students can access studying materials offline.

Also, the team thinks of having more materials to continuously empower teachers as well.Shule Direct has so far impacted over 2 million students, 24,637 teachers as well as 72 schools and centers across Tanzania.  The organization's database indicates that so far, 100,000 users have downloaded the App on Google Play.

Faraja says she always demands excellence from herself and leads by example.“As a successful entrepreneur; I want to be a role model who cultivates new business opportunities that offer social change," she says.

It is such aspirations that led her to start another startup incubator for young women entrepreneurs, Ndoto Hub in 2018, which supports their personal and business development, enabling them to learn, network, and grow their business as much as their leadership acumen.

So far, Ndoto Hub has incubated a total of 51 young female entrepreneurs.

Work-life balancing

As a wife, mother, worker and social media influencer, Faraja has a different view when it comes to working life balance.  “I don’t separate my work from my life.  I bring my home to work and I take my work home.  I am the same person,” she says, and further explains that what is important is to know oneself and be the same person in any situation.

She has also learned how to delegate.  “Make sure that you live according to your ability, aspirations, and your name and not what somebody else is doing.  Pick inspiration but stick to what you feel inside, what is driving you, your capabilities,” she advises.She says a woman has to double her effort in whatever she does and be so good at what they do.

Advice to girls

Girls, she says, have to dare to dream.“Some girls think that some things and some successes are meant for other people.  They don’t put themselves in those situations, acquiring that kind of success,” says Faraja.

“It is wrong. We all have the same chances. We are all born the same.”  She challenges girls to dream, create aspirations, and then start planning how they can achieve those dreams. 

For her, confidence is also very important, because confidence makes a person want to deliver and reach his/her goals.  “Confidence is a personal daily booster,” Faraja, an avid reader of books and a mother of two says.

Emmanuel Rubagumya writes about science, technology, and innovation.  Email: innovationstz@gmail.com

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