This article forms part of the archives of Business Insider South Africa, which was published as a partnership between News24 and Insider Inc between 2018 and 2023.
- FoondaMate is a WhatsApp and Facebook chatbot that provides high school pupils study materials.
- The chatbot solves maths equations, sends past exam papers and memoranda to matric learners, and defines terms - in under a minute.
- Foondamate was founded in South Africa last year after many students struggled with internet access during the lockdown.
As hundreds of disadvantaged learners still struggle with internet access in some parts of South Africa, two youngsters created a WhatsApp chatbot that sends pupils past exam papers, solves maths equations, defines words and searches the internet – and it provides results in under a minute.
FoondaMate, founded by software engineer Dacod Magagula and former UCT economics student Tao Boyle late last year, sends past practice question papers to matric pupils, and includes memoranda.
It also solves high school maths problems such as linear equations and simultaneous equations, and sends word definitions and Wikipedia articles in text, literally in less than a minute.
The chatbot was created after Magagula and Boyle saw how a lot of students struggled to access the internet during lockdown last year and decided to develop something that would try to close the gap.
"We launched FoondaMate in South Africa, in August 2020, after realising that hundreds of thousands of students in our country were stuck with no way to learn, as schools were shut due to lockdowns and appropriate technology products were not available.
"One thing that was easy for most students to access was WhatsApp – due to its popularity in developing countries," said Boyle.
According to the founders, the need to develop the chatbot was further exacerbated by the fact that many schools cannot afford printers or even cover the cost of printing study material for learners. Few schools have enough textbooks to give each student a copy.
After launching, the teams said they created a FoondaMate Instagram account, and "the next day we received over 3,000 messages, and it just kept growing.
"We started seeing users outside of South Africa, as far afield as Nigeria, and eventually even on other continents," Boyle said. This includes users from Latin America and Asia.
To try out the bot, pupils will need to log on to their WhatsApp account and send "Hello" to the number +2760 070 3213.
Depending on your network coverage, the bot responds immediately, asking you to choose which of the 11 South African official languages, plus Shona and French, you prefer. You have the options to change it later.
The chatbot provides you with instructions, and asks for your name and the name of your school. It then explains what you need to do in order access all available study material.
We asked the bot to define the term "circulatory system", and the answer was provided immediately.
We later asked the chatbot to download physical sciences Paper 1 June 2019 exam paper, and we received the paper with a memorandum. The process was even faster when we asked for life sciences exam papers.
Past exam papers are only available for matric pupils at the moment.