EIGHTEEN-year-old St George’s College lower six student Trueman Mabumbo is the talk of town after developing an automated WhatsApp chatbot called Dzidzo Paden with the aim of disseminating academic resources to students studying the Zimsec syllabi in Zimbabwe.
BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
In an interview with Standard Style, Mabumbo, a sciences student, revealed that he conceptualised the idea with the aim of affording low-income families an equal opportunity to access academic resources as the world is grappling with Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions which has affected normal face-to-face learning.
Mabumbo said he got the idea after coming across a picture meme of a rural girl student with the inscription: “We are not against online learning, but what about us?”
“After coming across the picture, it just prompted me to think of something. The picture made me realise that not everyone had access to Google Classroom and Google Meet and it led me to think of a solution,” said Mabumbo.
“I then thought of WhatsApp. According to TechZim there are about 5,2 million WhatsApp users in Zimbabwe and hence it would be an appropriate platform for everyone.
“Dzidzo Paden is an automated chatboard, so basically it’s a programme based on WhatsApp. What you do is send a message and getting an instant message back.
You then follow the instructions and register and get access to resources for exam classes such as Grade 7, Form 4 and Form 6.”
Mabumbo then partnered with Unesco, Zimsec and Amigo.
Unesco covered the costs of the project while Amigo provided content for the Dzidzo Paden chatbot.
The chatbot is different from online learning in that for online learning one needs data to access platforms like Google Classrooms and Google Meet. The chatbot, on the other hand, works using only WhatsApp bundles. You can download resources in pdf form to access offline later.
On future prospects, Mabumbo said his ambition was to major in electronics and robotics and also minor in agritech development as he has a passion for agriculture.
“I plan to study electronics and robotics at university, but I also want to minor in agritech development as I am very passionate about agriculture; the future of Zimbabwe solely lies with smallholder farmers. In future I see myself conceptualising ideas on how to improve smallholder farmers’ output,” he said.
The automated chatboard is set to reduce the huge educational gap currently existing in the country as more than 15 000 users have subscribed to date.