SA students launch GoVarsity app

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Two South African university students have launched GoVarsity, an app which looks to help high school learners better navigate the university application process and thrive once they make it there.

Luthando Dyasi and Sinethemba Makoma only left high school a year ago, but having won last year’s edition of the Innovate South Africa competition and subsequently undergone incubation at RLabs the pair have now launched GoVarsity.

“The app serves as a bridge between high school learners and university students wherein there will be an open platform for university students to offer clear, precise and filtered information to high school learners in a manner of equipping high school learners to become graduates,” Makoma told Disrupt Africa.

GoVarsity provides clear and concise information targeted at young people, offering answers from real people to queries about university and assisting in navigating the information on different university websites.

The co-founders came up with the idea when they were in high school, and were offered the chance to put their plan into action when they won the Innovate South Africa competition, earning ZAR10,000 (US$900) and the chance to incubate the app.

Makoma said the inspiration for the app had come when he and Dyasi were discussing what inhibited learners from disadvantaged backgrounds in gaining entry to university.

“Then we saw the problem that high school learners from disadvantaged backgrounds are not exposed to varsity life and they don’t know what is happening within that kind of an institution,” he said. “In addition, even those who break that barrier of reaching varsity level find it difficult to adapt to varsity life, as consequently they end up failing or dropping out.”

He said the team had been visiting high schools and universities in the Cape Town area to allow students to test their app and provide feedback.

“We got constructive criticism from our users, some said that it will be more easy for them to acquire knowledge about university without them going to university exhibitions, that are not effective enough to satisfy their needs,” Makoma said. “Some said that they don’t even bother themselves by going to existing alternatives such as career exhibitions or opening days.”

Makoma said Innovate South Africa and RLabs had played a crucial role in the development and launch of the app.

“Innovate South Africa has been very kind to us in the way that they always look upon opportunities that are related to what we are doing, even now we are still connected with them and we always show our support and appreciation in events that they do for other young innovators like us,” he said.

“RLabs has given us an incubation programme for up to nine months in developing our app in their facilities using their resources, and it has also taught us skills on how to sell our application to our market. It has given us everything that has to do with the success of our application.”

Makoma said there were a number of typically South African problems waiting to be solved by young people in the country.

“It would be abysmal of us people who are coming from disadvantaged background to not come up with such innovative solutions, because we are the ones who live with problems daily,” he said. “South Africa is facing very serious issues, and it is only us who are going to be the pillar on these issues. They must learn to hate the problems that we face and they can easily invent their own ideas by having that kind of a mind-set.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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