According to UNESCO, sub-Saharan Africa needs 17 million teachers to achieve the development goal of universal primary and secondary education by 2030 – 13.2 million new teachers and 3.8 million to replace those whose tenure is going to come to an end.
Entrepreneur Alim Ladha, spotting a potential niche in this deficit, launched Instill Education in 2016. The private education firm, with a presence in South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana, offers accredited academic programmes for aspiring teachers. It also provides practicing educators with professional development modules through a dedicated app. The company has attracted investment from Goodwell Investments, a Netherlands-based firm.
The target market
Upon founding Instill Education, Ladha, whose professional journey transitioned him from an engineering career to an associate partner at McKinsey & Company, conducted an initial market analysis to identify the company’s key target clients.
Instill Education primarily targets three categories of individuals. The first category includes those looking to obtain their teaching certification through college or university. The second is existing teachers across the continent who lack formal training or qualifications. The third encompasses certified teachers in Africa who are actively pursuing ongoing professional development.
“If you want to become an educator, we … qualify you as one, which requires certification. And if you are an existing educator, we need to give you the type of modules that can improve your practice in the classroom,” Ladha articulates.
Training new teachers
In 2016, not long after starting Instill Education, Ladha applied for accreditation with the South African Department of Higher Education and Training. He submitted materials for a proposed post-graduate certificate focused on early education – the first four years of schooling.
Ladha chose South Africa for accreditation because it’s perceived to have the most credible and reputable higher education framework on the continent. Starting with a certificate in early education was also strategic because there’s a high demand for teachers in this area. This demand could help attract students to the programme. To get accredited, Instill had to show it could deliver this proposed programme. Starting with a one-year certificate made this easier.
It took seven years, but in January 2023, Instill finally received its provisional accreditation number. This allowed the company to advertise its certificate programme to students. The process took longer than expected, partly due to delays from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first cohort for the certificate programme is currently in a virtual class, with the second intake for in-person training happening later this year.
Instill has other programmes it’s either planning to submit or has already submitted for accreditation. These include certificates for intermediate and senior further education and training (FET) phase teaching, a diploma in school leadership, and a bachelor of education degree programme.
The company makes money from student enrolments, whether the students pay themselves or get financial help from scholarships or other means of financing.
Existing teacher development
While awaiting the accreditation process, Instill Education wasn’t idle; it was crafting a curriculum for professional development aimed at existing teachers, the company’s other target group.
Instill created a suite of online modules, developed by its in-house team of African educators and academics, customised to meet the unique challenges of teaching in an African public school.
With the content in place, the company needed to figure out a business model for this offering.
“Our breakthrough came last year in Ghana,” says Ladha. Instill had formed a partnership with the Ghanaian government and collaborated with the Mastercard Foundation to launch a pilot programme for 5,000 teachers. The company used an existing online learning platform to deliver its tailor-made teacher development modules to this cohort.
The pilot showed that the teachers were learning from the modules, retaining the information, and applying it in their classrooms. Armed with this proof of concept, Instill opted to invest in developing its own platform, named Upskill. This Android app addresses gaps that the third-party platform couldn’t fill. For instance, it provides an offline feature, essential for teachers who often only have intermittent wi-fi access.
Launched in April of this year, the app has already seen 5,000 downloads.
Ladha explains that Instill generates revenue in three ways from this platform. The first is a business-to-consumer model where it charges a modest fee to educators on the continent. Secondly, it also has a business-to-business model and has just signed its first major client which has a network of schools and teachers.
The third approach, still under development, involves selling stackable micro-credential modules through the app. Students can complete these short modules at their convenience, gradually accruing enough credits to eventually earn a degree in education. While South Africa doesn’t yet have an official system to oversee micro-credential qualifications, Ghana does. Instill is currently working on accrediting two micro-credential degrees: a bachelor of education and a master’s in school leadership.
Expansion and growth
Today, Instill has 25 employees located in South Africa, Ghana and Kenya. Ladha indicates that the company will look to scale up further when the time is right.
In Ghana, the number of users on the initial third-party platform has grown to around 10,000 teachers. The company has also partnered with the Council of County Governors in Kenya to pilot the Upskill app.
In Nigeria, Instill has entered into an agreement with the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria to kick off a pilot project at the start of the school year this September.
Looking ahead, Instill plans to partner with existing institutions to expand its regional reach. “We do not want to reinvent the wheel. If there are institutions who want to partner with us, we will, rather than us going through our own journey to get accredited,” Ladha adds.
Instill Education founder and CEO Alim Ladha’s contact information
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