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How an “unqualified” 27-year-old Zimbabwean teacher created a top tutoring academy on WhatsApp

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Maxwell Chimedza says he doesn’t know how to use a computer, but his 32GB cellphone was all he needed to coach students in Zimbabwe.

Photography by Cynthia Matonhodze for Rest of World

By RAY MWAREYA and AUDREY SIMANGO

25 JUNE 2021 • HARARE, ZIMBABWE

“Honestly, I don’t know how to operate a computer. I’m a WhatsApp exam-refiner,” said Maxwell Chimedza. The 27-year-old preps students who are on the threshold of sitting for Zimbabwe’s ultra-competitive high school exams, the A-Levels. The tool of his trade? A Samsung Galaxy A10S cellphone with a modest 32GB of storage. 

In 2021, Chimedza captured attention locally after his class of 64 WhatsApp students between them snagged 41 A-grade marks., ostensibly placing them in the same league with students from Zimbabwe’s expensive elite boarding schools. Up to 50,000 students across the southern African country sat for the A-Level examination in 2020. 

Popularly known as “Dr. Maxx,” Chimedza operates from Mbare, which is the oldest township in the capital Harare, and one of the country’s poorest. “I’ll be clear,” he said, “I’m an unqualified teacher.” 

Harare is the capital of Zimbabwe and home to over 1.5 million people.

Chimedza himself scooped 14 A-Level examination distinctions in 2012, but his family didn’t have the money to send him to university. Joining the 136,000 formal teachers in Zimbabwe requires a three-year degree. 

Facing the hard slog of unemployment in a country whose economy has been in the doldrums for over a decade now, Chimedza began his WhatsApp “student-polishing” endeavors in 2019. He created WhatsApp class timetables and added audiovisual material for students in WhatsApp classrooms where he runs mock tests and grades their assignments. Unlike traditional school teachers who get paid around $260 monthly, Chimedza’s skills are reserved for the “last-mile” preparation of students. “Three months before exams, I can polish a student to get A-mark distinctions,” he told Rest of World.

This article appeared on Rest of the World and is published here for educational purpose.

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Written by Salone Messenger

Salone Messenger is a Global Multimedia and Public Relation Firm that brings young emerging leaders, bloggers, activists, and storytellers to tell inspiring stories of change-makers and build a community of young people telling human interest stories using smartphones.

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