Tunapanda Institute: How One Startup is Tearing Down Barriers to Education in Kenya

By Akudo McGee 6 Min Read

Among the most helpful tools for a better future is a good education. It’s not unusual to see parents and guardians all over the world paying extra money, driving further and even moving house to ensure that their children have the best education possible.

For some parents and guardians securing a future for their children means they look for small, private establishments with smaller class sizes and more experienced teachers but for many in the world, the ability to send their children at all may not be in reach.

According to Ventures Africa, about one-third of all Kenyan children don’t enroll in high school because of educational expenses. The long-term consequences of discontinuing formal education often affect their ability to establish careers and secure fiscal stability.

The Kenyan startup, Tunapanda Institute is hoping to reverse the trend of young Kenyans dropping out due to school costs. Founded by two brothers, Jay and Mick Larson, Tunapanda Institute is a free, online teaching program designed to teach students new skills through intensive courses. The three-week intensive learning courses are in subjects like tech, design, and business and so far over 100 young Kenyans have graduated from their school.

We focus on the low-cost replicability of training facilities and can offer turnkey solutions for learning. We enable anyone to open schools and create learning experiences in their communities using our unique operating pedagogy, open source tools, offline education networks, and more.

Barriers to Traditional Education

The barriers to traditional education in Kenya are diverse and complex. The primary obstacle is cost, the average course costing 1,000 Kenyan shillings (approximately $12).

While this may not seem like much, it can be as much as an entire week’s wages for half the population meaning that for many, giving their children access to one online course may be impossible. For many families, older children are also an untapped source of income who, while enrolled in studies are unable to produce revenue to assist their families.

Added to these concerns are also concerns of distance, where some young people may be spatially isolated from educational opportunities and schools, and there is also a noticeable gender divide. The issue of the gender divide is not just an issue in Kenya but all around the world; girls are critically underrepresented in STEM fields like engineering and mathematics, and their access to training and courses in STEM subjects are often limited as well.

The Tunapanda Way

So what happens after students enroll in courses offered by Tunapanda Institute? Students enroll in any of their basic tracks in tech, design or business. There is no cost for students to enroll and applications can be completed via a form on their website.

Tunapanda Institute also offers an apprenticeship program for people to learn how to coach, teach and do lesson planning in preparation for administrating a learning community down the line. Tunapanda connects with local organizations which provide students with experience interviewing, business pitching and allows them to have their CV reviewed and receive feedback on it. According to their website, 85% of their graduates have found gainful employment.

Giving Back

In addition to producing course information free of charge for students, all of their materials are free, open source and can be accessed offline. Tunapanda also features a platform called Tunapanda Swag, a free online delivery platform that allows users to custom create their curriculum and lesson plans free of charge.

They’re working on closing the gender gap in Kenya by visiting local schools and holding workshops to spread awareness of the gap and opportunities for young girls. In addition to ensuring that children and teachers have the physical resources needed for their educational needs, Tunapanda Institute features a free wireless network which connects users to their educational content.

The network is called Tunapandanet, and it connects to free content from Tunapanda as well as free online resources from popular websites like Wikipedia to free online education giants like Khan Academy.

Tunapanda Institute is an example of how the ingenuity of talented minds makes a way through any difficulty and barrier. It is an exemplification of what can blossom once intelligent, well planned and well-researched interventions are put into play.

They’re also a good example of new ways to achieve a more educated citizenry; if the future of education and employment lies in tech, why not take our teaching methods into the 21st century?


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