Quality early childhood education is the foundation of a child’s journey, as every stage of education that follows relies on its success.
Teesas is an edtech startup that seeks to include young learners in the new wave of combining education and technology. The brainchild of Osayi Izedonmwen, an engineer, was inspired by his passion for education and perhaps influenced by his parents’ careers as educators.
“I have always loved education, and both of my parents are educators. I know the value of quality early childhood education. I know the investment in quality early childhood education has made a difference in the way my career has moved along.”
Osayi, who had a blossoming career working in the oil and gas company ExxonMobil for 15 years and also founded a Lagos-based tech company, Imose Technologies, mentions that he transitioned into the edtech space as it was an area of passion, and he had been looking for an opportunity to go in and add value.
Teesas, currently operating on the Nigerian educational curriculum, is focused on early childhood education (kindergarten to primary 6) by delivering quality educational content both in English and local languages, a first for most parts of Africa.
Teesas is also focused on delivering content that is indigenously adaptable with a lot of engagement and gamification that enhances the overall level of interest in a young child.
Less than six months since the launch of Teesas, the startup has recorded impressive growth, according to the CEO. He attributes this success to the quality of the idea behind Teesas.
Not many companies can bring all of these factors to bear on a single product. It is very uncommon for an edtech product to deliver across multiple streams of value addition.Osayi Izedonmwen, CEO of Teesas
He also mentions that the quality of the team had also helped in recording that success.
“I also think the quality of our team speaks to the fact that we can execute. When you look at the leadership team and myself, a look at what we have done in the past clearly indicates that we are a group of people with experience, wherewithal and the drive, knowledge and overall ambition to deliver a world class product that can scale globally.”
Delivering content in indigenous languages and through animation
Teesas is targeting children below 10, and Osayi describes this as the “toughest area”.
“Children have a little attention span, and developing a tech product for young children is not a small feat. We know that early childhood education is the stage to make the biggest impact. That is why we have taken on the toughest challenge. But we know that as we create value, in the toughest area, we would be able to transform more lives.”
One of the ways Teesas deals with the low attention span of their audience is to limit their visual content to 5 minutes. Teesas also applies a lot of animation, targeted at addressing the challenge of short concentration space.
“Children are focused on cartoons and never forget what they learn in them. We have borrowed from that and have made our learning contentment as close as possible to material that they find fun and engaging. The key thing is being able to make it fun and engaging and that’s what I think makes us stand out in the space.”
Noteworthy is that Teesas uses local languages alongside English to impart knowledge to its young learners. The startup uses 7 Nigerian languages: Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Tiv, Bini, Ijaw and Ibibio in their content.
The goal is to reenergise the use of native languages and to bridge the gap for young children who are not very conversant with English.
This is particularly important to Osayi. He believes that re-energising the use and knowledge of local languages will add significant value to building the children’s identities as Nigerians and Africans.
“Our vision is to deliver those tough to understand mathematical and scientific concepts in a language they can understand and we think if we can do that, we would have helped to liberalize access to quality education. We have made it very easy to make educational material that addresses core concepts that are curricularly aligned to what the national education boards expect from us.”
Teesas seeks to give its learners a rounded education by introducing social and emotional aspects to the kids learning. This is known as the Life Skills feature on the platform. Life skills cover things like anti bullying, which is a big issue across the world.
The platform enlisted Mercy Johnson Okojie, a Nigerian actress as it’s anti-bullying ambassador. According to Osayi, she was chosen because she has young children who have been victims of bullying so it is something she is passionate about.
In developing the content of life skills, Teesas works with experts in child psychology to come up with content that can resonate with the targeted age group.
“Life skills were introduced because we realised that education has to be rounded. We feel those kinds of skills equip children with the right kind of tools that will shape the way they develop into adults and help them build robust attitudes towards life. It is something we are very passionate about and we think it will make a significant difference in building well rounded children.
Growth and future plans
Teesas raised $1.6 million in a pre-seed round of funding which Osayi says has been put to good use by developing the team, which is now about 100 members strong.
What we are trying to build is a business that is profitable, sustainable.
The startup however has more in stock. Teesas is set to launch a marketplace that will link learners with tutors for private lessons.
“We are working hard on the marketplace and bringing in some very renowned content providers. We want to be the platform that brings world class content to Africa, where African children can interact and gain access to the best tutors anywhere in the world. It is fundamental to how we add value going forward.”
Talk of expansion is already in progress as Teesas has added French to the list of languages. The choice of French is because Nigeria is surrounded by Francophone countries and Teesas hopes to use that as a springboard.
“Clearly our growth plan is to be a pan African company. We have always said we see Africa as our main turf. We want to build in Nigeria, learn a few more things through our build up in Nigeria and then rapidly expand into Africa. Bringing in French is one of our early steps to accomplish that mission.”
In recognition of Teesas’ work, it was selected to the GSV Cup Elite 200. To this end, Teesas will compete for up to $1 million in cash and prizes in San Diego this April at the ASU+GSV Summit, the annual education technology event hosted by Arizona State University and GSV Ventures.
Osayi regards this selection as validation to the work Teesas is doing, especially as it is the only Nigerian startup to make the cut.
“That means a lot to us as that clearly is validation that we are onto something. When you look at the quality of individuals that sit on the panel of judges, these are individuals that are invested, built or served as executives of some of the largest edtech companies in the world. From Coursera and Udemy. For them to have selected Teesas, it means that they are clearly telling the rest of the world that Teesas is on a path to greatness and creating substantial value. That’s a clear testament to the quality of work we’re doing.”
To increase traction, Teesas is set to ramp up marketing and advertising efforts, in addition to the word of mouth reference that has sustained the startup so far.
We are set to market our product as you’ll be hearing about us in the weeks to come. We expect that it will help in fueling our growth.
Speaking on the future of edtech, Osayi opines that the future is very bright as people now access quality education digitally, a process that was accelerated by the covid-19 pandemic. He also adds that this digitisation will ultimately be experienced across the educational spectrum, starting from the young learners.
I think edtech companies are the future of education and that’s why it’s important for companies like ours that are focusing on the foundations to become prominent players because that’s where the most impact can be made with respect to education.
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