Tunapanda is an institution which started 5 years ago by granting human freedom and spreading human dignity using education as a tool.The institution is interested in training the youth in the fields of business, practical technology and design. They sought to empower the younger generations in Kenya especially through apprenticeship programs and free trainings as a platform to reach the masses. Tunapanda has since its inception trained a dozen people through its ingenious programmes and courses. It has certainly revolutionised education and training by using contemporary teaching aids to make learning and teaching much easier. Solomon Gachugu the Founder and CEO of Tunapanda tells us more in an interview
- How did Tunapanda start out?
Tunapanda Institute began in 2013 as an effort to create and disseminate an “education on a hard drive” and make video-learning (MOOC) experiences widely available without having to pay for bandwidth. In 2014 we opened our first training facility in Kibera, Nairobi.
- Who are the brains behind Tunapanda?
Tunapanda believes strongly in the open source philosophy of open collaboration. It is not so much a top-down organization. Thus, we draw on the creativity of our entire team and the extended community to develop and test our ideas. The original idea came from two brothers, Mick Larson and Jay Larson, who had experience in education and technology entrepreneurship; and Bachelor of Science degrees in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology and Economics, respectively. Jay and Mick were the original 2 teachers at Tunapanda Kibera, and have also spearheaded the development of our open source software project, called Swag, and our unique business and replication models.
- What is the one thing you wish you could have done differently during the introductory stage?
Creating clear accountabilities and better measuring deliverables and KPIs or OKRs. Also, getting everyone to use their skills to earn money — even small amounts — to build confidence.
- What are Tunapanda’s goals?
Making it easy to create learning communities anywhere in the world that deliver high quality skills-based training at the lowest possible cost.
- What is the culture at Tunapanda like?
Open, creative, collaborative, learning-focused.
- What type of personalities fit in best at Tunapanda?
Self-starters who know how to find problems and take opportunities without too much supervision.
- What was your journey like to get to where you are now?
Lots of hard work mixed in with some excitement and a large number of sleepless nights!
- How does it feel to be listed amongst the NT100?
Like another small step in the direction we’re going.
- Tell me more about your services especially Tunapanda Swag, Tech Dada and Tunapandanet.
Tunapanda Swag is a gamified learning environment that can help people learn individually or in groups even without too many qualified teachers around. It can run in offline environments and syncs with an Android/iOS application we have developed so learners can take video content and other materials “to go.”
Tech Dada is an outreach program led by one of our team members, Josephine Miliza, who is a network engineer by training. She has modified parts of the Tunapanda model and curriculum to work with girls’ secondary schools — building confidence, career knowledge, and hard technical skills.
Tunapandanet is a small community network we are building to take learning out to the wider community.
- Tell me more about Produced by Tunapanda.
Produced by Tunapanda is how we earn revenue to keep our training in Kibera free to as many learners as possible. This involves web design, software engineering, human centered design (HCD) research, running trainings for others, and setting up copies of our training model with other organizations.
Since most of our trainers were originally trainees, it helps for them to be doing work that we teach professionally. This way our curricula remain up-to-date and our team members have authority about what they are teaching.
- What are Tunapanda’s three biggest accomplishments?
We are approaching 200 graduates, we have opened a facility in Turkana, we have shown that teachers of the future can be trained quickly and can also perform work in the global digtial marketplace as they teach.
- Give me a word that best describes Tunapanda’s services.
- How do applicants get access to Tunapanda’s service and how many students are registered onto your network as at now?
Currently, they need to attend our training, but we are developing swag.tunapanda.org to allow easier access in the future.
- Which programmes are offered at Tunapanda Institute and what are the criteria for entry?
3-month intensive training program in technology, design, and business. The criteria are a growth mindset, passion for some area, and strong communication skills.
8-month apprenticeship program where some graduates learn to become teachers and 21st-century professionals. We accept the trainees who are most helpful to others’ learning and who work the hardest.
- How many countries are Tunapanda actively operational in and do you have plans of extending into other market segments if yes which countries?
Our model is useful everywhere, and we hope that people will use our platform, pedagogy, and curricula in every city around the world someday. Currently, our competitive advantage is probably in places with limited infrastructure, such as Juba (South Sudan), various refugee camps from Africa to Europe and beyond.
- How many students do you have as at now and how many have graduated?
We have over 50 currently enrolled, and are approaching 200 graduates.
- Has the economy in anyway affected patronage?
We are too new to answer this question since we don’t have long-term historical data and projections.
- What are the top 3 factors you would attribute to your success?
Growth mindset, hard work, luck.
- What is Tunapanda’s biggest challenge?
Finding clients/partners to hire us to set up copies of our training facility and hand them over to the local communities.
- How do you see Tunapanda changing in the next 5 years and how do you intend on adopting and creating those changes?
Tunapanda will be more and more run as a network of training facilities with decentralized control over the main operations and vision.
- A word of advice to young entrepreneurs.
Work hard, produce something of value, sell.
Tunapanda’s hard work ,transformative services and strive for excellence will certainly keep motivating the younger generations. We hope that in decades to come you will be able to achieve your expansion and take Tunapanda transformative and innovative services to larger communities globally. Thank you so much for granting Light Magazine Africa the opportunity to interview you and get our cherished audience to know more about Tunapanda.