On top of her job as a secretary at Buddo SS, Mary Caroline Nambogga is charged with the custodianship of pocket money of students at this school.
Nambogga says that this second role is actually more difficult than her primary job. First, she is not an accountant; second, some secondary school students are sharp and tricky.
“The paperwork is quite a lot. There can be shortfalls because some students can be crafty and others may not sign when they pick the money,” she explains.
In all, handling students’ pocket money in cash is a hectic affair altogether, plus, whenever students have cash, the occurrence of theft among them is very high.
However, this nightmare has recently become a-thing-of-the-past, with the introduction of Kawu smart cards at this school.
Founded in 2021, Kawu Smart Card is an automated Digital Financial Services platform that allows parents and students to conveniently manage pocket money. A parent just deposits the student’s pocket money onto the Kawu wallet and the student uses the Kawu Smart Card to make transactions while in school.
When this service was introduced at Buddo SS early this year (2023), Nambogga was installed as the Kawu Agent in this school.
“The card has come in handy not only in sorting record-keeping challenges but also waived a big load off our shoulders of being able to give pocket money to students according to the parent’s demands. In a way, this helps a parent to set a limit for their children,” Nambogga says.
According to the KAWU co-founder, Gerald Ssebunya, this service was built in 2021 to bring control back into the hands of parents by determining how much a child can spend at a given period.
He explains that parents just need to download the mobile application from Play Store or App Store and start sending and monitoring the expenditure of their children.
The students are happy too.
Palvin John Ndawula, a Senior One student at Buddo SS says this card has not only made it easy for his parents to send money, it also keeps his money safe!
“For example, my parents would previously give me money and I keep it in my suitcase or I leave it somewhere and they steal it. With the card, my money is safe. The card also has an account number and no one else can use it besides me. This is the best card,” he says.
“At my former school [in primary], we used to keep money with the school bursar and when you go to ask for it at the end of the term, some of the money would be misplaced. Your money is extremely safe with this card.”
Similarly, Salmah Nadia Nakabuye, also in Senior One at Buddo SS, is equally impressed.
“When I want more money, I don’t ring my mother but she looks at the App and sends money directly to my card. I would like to tell students to register and get the card because it is safe and convenient. When the card is lost, they can replace it and your money remains safe,’ she says.
Ssebunya notes that between 2021 and 2023, they have reached over 200 schools with 54 of them coming on board.
“We have managed to activate over 10,000 students where at least 9,000 are actively using the smart card. We also have 15,000 parents that have activated and downloaded the application,” he says.
Ssebunya explains that this service has attracted much attention because it is easy and secure.
“When activating this smart card, we take their photo, name, and parent’s phone number. Once you download and sign up using the number that the student gave us to activate their card, the App automatically links to the student’s card. A parent now has the ability to send money from their mobile money account straight to their child’s smart card. We allow them to set up a five-digit password that they use to secure their card,” he says.
The parent can monitor the child’s account through the App and be able to tell if their child needs a top-up.
Ssebunya says they plan to reach millions of students across the East African region in the next five years.
“We have a big market opportunity of over 40 million students around East Africa and in the next five years, we are looking at serving 30 percent of this size,” he says.
At Buddo SS, the cards are so far being used by Senior One and Senior Five students but the plan is to phase out cash transactions and only accept pocket money through this card for the entire school.
Not Without Challenges.
Just like any other electronic device, the card has its shortfalls. Nambogga notes that when the number of users increases, there is always a network problem.
This is common on visitation days when many people have logged into their accounts.
Since it is still new, some parents have also not understood how to use it which necessitates Nambogga to make several calls to direct them on how to deposit the money from their mobile money accounts to the cards.
40 Days 40 FinTechs.
Kawu is participant number one in the fourth season of the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative, season four organised by HiPipo to showcase innovations that are enabling underserved populations to join the digital economy space. This initiative is run in partnership with the Level One Project, Mojaloop Foundation, INFITX, Cyberplc Academy, Ideation Corner, and Crosslake Technologies with support generous from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Ssebunya confesses that Kawu’s success story is mostly because of their participation in this initiative which introduced them to the FinTech community, specifically with the mentorship of HiPipo CEO Innocent Kawooya.
On his part, Kawooya says that with such impact stories as Kawu’s, the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative is indeed bearing fruit.
“This year we are paying keen attention to the actual impact of each featured Innovation across East Africa. For three years, we have shone a light on marvelous innovations but now we want to see how they have benefited the intended users,” Kawooya noted.