Acquiring maths learning at an early age equips young people with the critical thinking and problem solving skills that will help them in all aspects of their lives. For edupreneur Rianke Chapman, founder of Tutor For The Future, this educational need on the part of South Africa’s young people provided the inspiration to start a business providing the specialist educational support needed to fill a real gap.
LoA learned more about this edupreneur on a mission to make a difference to the lives of South Africa’s young people this month.
What does your company do?
Tutor For The Future has a vision and passion to create opportunities for every school learner to succeed in life. We believe that every learner should be afforded the opportunity to take control of their education and aim to empower students in this way. We aim to uplift communities by raising their level of education, especially those in previously disadvantaged areas. We create additional, interactive learning material and run programs to help learners strengthen the foundation of their education. Our content and programs focus primarily on Maths and caters to school learners from Gr 4 to Gr 7. We believe that intervention at a younger age is essential, since learners often lack the basic skills required to excel at Maths in high school. We also help to assess the technology needs at schools and optimise their existing technology to most benefit the learners. Given the increased use of technology in the classroom, we seek ways of leveraging technology to widen the impact of our program.
"We believe that every learner should be afforded the opportunity to take control of their education and aim to empower students in this way."
What inspired you to start your company?
Compassion mixed with passion. My compassion for people and the South African community, mixed with the passion that I have for education, compelled me to start a company that could make a difference in this space. I have always believed that Maths is a critical skill required to help learners develop problem solving abilities. Although I helped many learners in a one on one setting for many years, I was challenged to find a scalable solution that could have a positive impact on the masses.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
The program is both dynamic and versatile and has shown to help significantly improve a learner’s Maths ability. It has been tailored specifically to the South African market and follows the national CAPS curriculum. We have taken learning beyond the classroom and give learners the ability to learn at their own pace and focus on concepts that they may struggle with. The program has also served as a teaching guide to teachers, who are often unsure of the correct methods to use to teach a particular concept. The program is capable of significant reach and can be scaled to impact the masses. The product is very cost effective which further enables a greater sphere of influence across the country as learners, schools and parents are not faced with the often intimidating cost of additional support.
"I have always believed that Maths is a critical skill required to help learners develop problem solving abilities."
"Although I helped many learners in a one on one setting for many years, I was challenged to find a scalable solution that could have a positive impact on the masses."
Tell us a little about your team
I am the managing director of the company and work with several team members that have helped to make Tutor for the Future a success, both on a permanent and part time basis. We have built relationships with various university lecturers, teachers, content developers, university students and web developers to help make this a reality. We have also received backing from a corporate in South Africa that has helped sponsor the program in rural areas.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
After finishing school in South Africa, my family emigrated to Australia. I decided to pursue a career in accounting and started studying and working as an auditor in a large auditing firm in Australia. My goal at the time was to become a Chartered Accountant, but I found little joy in performing this type of work. I missed South Africa and the diverse culture tremendously, and kept feeling drawn back to the country in which I was raised. Despite the “comfort” of living in Australia, I decided to move back to South Africa at the end of 2013 with the intention of embarking on my entrepreneurial journey.
I had a vision to create a company that combined education with technology in order to have greater reach in South Africa. I started off doing Skype tutoring in a township school, but came across several challenges that detracted from my ability to reach the number of learners that I envisaged. My solution to this was to create Maths videos which learners could access during their own time, receive a lesson at their own pace and without the need of an internet connection. I started developing the Maths videos for Gr 6 and Gr 7, and managed to win a large social economic development project to run a Maths program in 24 schools in rural Limpopo. This amounted to a total of 850 learners receiving additional Maths support through our videos. The program was very effective, with some learners increasing their Maths marks by more than 20% in 1 year. The lessons also provided a tool for teachers at these schools to better prepare for classes and set exams at a more suitable level. We have since expanded the videos to also include Grades 4 and 5 and currently have over 6000 minutes of Maths content. Since becoming an entrepreneur, I constantly seek new opportunities to make a difference and have started another venture in the education field. We have developed video content to assist English learners with Afrikaans as a first additional language and launched an e-learning site in January 2017. This company is called Learneo.
"We have taken learning beyond the classroom and give learners the ability to learn at their own pace and focus on concepts that they may struggle with."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
As a shorter term plan, I would like to develop more Maths content and eventually cover all grades across several subjects which learners typically struggle with. We have also started to develop a learning box for Gr R to Gr 3 which provides all the necessary tools for a child to develop problem solving abilities from a young age. In the long term, I would like to help every rural and township school in the country with Maths. In order to do so, I would like to invoke in both corporates and individuals a similar desire to give back and challenge them to help sponsor schools with additional Maths.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I believe that everyone was created to do something specific that can add to the world. I think that everyone is capable of making a significant contribution to their community. We should not just be consumers of the world’s resources, but build towards a better society. The greatest satisfaction for me is to be part of this building process and be able to put certain building blocks in place which will ultimately allow others to build something unique and productive of their own.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
If you are about to start a business, it is important to define your standards and your values very early on. When challenges arise, it is important to not compromise on what you believe in and the quality of the product or service that you offer. Be consistent in your character and in the way that you do business. Have integrity and respect others. Get to know yourself better because there may be times when the only source of motivations comes from within. It is important to think positively, because the battle to overcome is first won in the mind. Remember that you always have a choice in how you respond to every situation, so be aware of the small choices that you are making on a daily basis. Be fully present in every situation and environment because you never know what opportunities may be around you.
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Why LoA loves it….
It is always inspiring to meet women entrepreneurs who have a passion for making a positive difference in the lives of others. In the case of Rianke Chapman, she is empowering a new generation of young people in South Africa through education, and specifically Maths learning programmes. Her vision and mission are both tied to the belief that if you give young people access to high quality learning opportunities beyond the classroom, and harness the power of technology, that it is possible to help the next generation to fulfill their true potential and take control of their lives. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa