Q: Can you briefly tell us about Thuso Othusitse and his entrepreneurial journey?
A: I am co-founder of Classmate Online. We started Classmate in 2016 after a careful assessment that students’ examination results were declining. We have since engaged with schools around the country to provide them with solutions that will close the gap between school and home by providing remote and active learning.
Our platform targets primary, junior and secondary schools. We also provide Enterprise Resource Planning software for schools to be able to run their day to day activities. We recently launched a marketplace for tutors around Botswana to be able to reach out to students during this pandemic.
Q: Tell us more about innovation at Classmate Online?
A: Classmate has developed an array of applications to fill the gap that exists in our traditional teaching and learning. We are providing a solution to allow for students to be able to learn outside the school environment. The platform allows students to collaborate with their peers across the country. We have partnered with Botswana Telecommunications Corporation to provide students with subsidised Internet where students can subscribe and access unlimited free content. Our technology has tools that help students with learning disabilities like dyslexia, epilepsy and ADHD.
Q: Is the education sector really ready for the ‘new normal,’ looking at the meagre resources which it operates with and seeing that classes are now mostly virtual or online?
A: COVID-19 has actually catapulted the use of technology in almost every sector, education being one of them. The use of technology in schools has been very low. The biggest challenge has been Internet connectivity and gadgets. Training and capacity building has been one of the biggest problems. Some schools do not have electricity, and this makes it difficult to adopt digital solutions.
Q: Before COVID-19, most countries were looking into adopting the 4th industrial revolution but the pandemic really fast-tracked the importance of digitalization. What does this communicate?
A: Most countries have started adopting 4IR because it will help automate most of jobs that take long time to do when relying on human capital. Besides the fear of losing jobs, digital solutions are scalable and can create new jobs.
Q: How has the new normal changed or influenced current approaches to choosing courses and career paths?
A: We have seen emerging technologies such as robotics, 3D printing, Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. All these technologies will result in creating new jobs in different markets and industries.
Q: Going forward, do we see the e-learning industry growing in Botswana?
A: In recent years, we have seen the Government of Botswana taking a step towards investing in digital solutions, including in education technology. The government has put aside a big budget to improve digital infrastructure to allow for the development of e-learning solutions.
Q: What trends do we anticipate in the education sector that are influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: We anticipate that schools will opt to choose to technology to support existing methods of teaching and learning. Schools are now moving to the use of remote methods of teaching and learning. Technology is the only available measure to use to solve these problems.
Q: Talking to you now as an entrepreneur, what challenges have you faced since inception of your business?
A: We have experienced delays in adoption of the new technologies. Lack of digital content, connectivity, device penetration and capacity building, have proved to be the biggest problem. The biggest problem is our government is still relying on international products as opposed to supporting local products.
Q: What does the future hold for Thuso Othusitse and his business endeavours?
A: The future looks bright as most Batswana are using technology as a part of their day to day living across all levels. Mobile penetration has proved to be growing as well. Schools have started buying Classmate as a service. We currently registered 15 schools across Botswana.