Sierra Leone News: Local tech whiz launches WASSCE app
A local 19-year old aspiring software developer unveiled his newest project at the U.S. Embassy on Thursday 6 July 2017 to a crowd of technology professionals, students, and stakeholders.
Joseph Jawah Kebbie built an app called WASSCE Syllabus that makes studying for the West African college entrance exam much easier and more productive. With the app, college applicants can scroll through the syllabuses of over 40 subjects, ranging from biology to world history.
Kebbie, who attended Christ the King College in Bo, was inspired by conversations with several of his friends who told him of their troubles with the exam and a lack of study materials.
“I thought most of them would be in college by then, but many didn’t enter because they couldn’t pass the WASSC Examination,” Kebbie said. “Since most of my friends were struggling with this problem, I decided to do something about it.”
Using the programing and software skills he gained during a year-long Youth Exchange and Study (ES) program in the U.S. last year, he wrote the code for the app in only three weeks. During an initial pitch to the Sierra Leone government, Kebbie said one official told him that they had been working on something similar for three years without much to show for it.
The West African Examination Council (WAEC) has demonstrated their intent to work with Kebbie to further develop the app and add more study features to help more students pass the college entrance exam.
“I never really had any funding; I just did it myself,” Kebbie said. “WAEC provided a booklet for students, but previously they had to pay over 100,000 Leones to buy the booklet. Now with this app they don’t need to pay anything. It’s totally free.”
The app is currently available on the Google Play store and Kebbie is working on versions compatible with the Apple iOS and Windows platforms. As of Wednesday, Kebbie said the app had about 400 downloads, averaging about 65 per day.
The app launch at the U.S. embassy was coupled with a welcome celebration for the eight ES alums that studied in the U.S. during the 2016-17 school year. The ES program sends eight Sierra Leonean students to the U.S. every year since 2009. Hundreds of students from across the country compete for these scholarships in a workshop run by the recruiting agency iEARN, which operates in almost 40 countries and sends close to 800 scholars to the U.S. every year.
“Everyone was astonished about what Joseph did and learned in the U.S.,” said iEARN coordinator, Jane Peters.
“That’s one really important part of the ES project. The students coming back from the U.S. become alums and implement their experiences back into their home country. That’s exactly what Joseph did.”
Joseph was an ES participant during the 2015-16 year and studied at Toledo Technical Academy, an Ohio school that specializes in technology and engineering. Between programing robots, building go-karts that run on alternative energy, and learning the JAVA coding language, Kebbie amassed all the skills he would need to bring an app like WASSCE syllabus to life back in Sierra Leone.
“I was really fortunate to be placed at the school because they had a pre-tech college curriculum,” Kebbie said. “I really unlocked my skills in robotics and I got to go to robotics competitions.”
Kebbie plans to continue improving the app and already has heard feedback from users about features they would like to see down the road. With the support of WAEC, he believes this app could become a hub of learning for college applicants and show students all over Sierra Leone that smartphones are good for more than just social media.