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Lillian Achom: Using technology to revolutionise report cards in Uganda

Say yes if you recall the days of paper report cards in primary and secondary school. It may not have been a big deal to some, but to Lillian Achom the inadequate procedures of schools cost her to enter university a year late. Information Systems was a new one for us. Yet there are even brilliant entrepreneurial ideas in the education sector. Lillian is one woman tapping into this is. Lillian is an Information Systems Professional that provides university information to students in and out of Uganda. Tell us about your startup. What societal challenges do you hope to address with it? Throughout my primary and high school, we used to be given hard-copy, class results to take to our parents. However, by end of the year two or even year one, there would be no records of all the previous results for comparisons with current results. As a result, it was difficult to rule out where my strengths and weaknesses were in the different subjects. When I joined Advanced Level, at the time for applying to join university, we were given information about the available universities courses, their entry requirements among others. I was seeing these for the first time so everything looked new to me. Besides, my performance in my subject combination at A level was way below the entry requirements I was seeing. The lack of prior knowledge of university entry requirements and poor choices I made affected my studies. I never got admitted in any university that year. However, I managed to join a tertiary institution one year later. What I experienced years back in my high school are what the majority of students are still experiencing today. Schools use manual systems to provide information about public universities to students. Students receive hard-copy performance results. Some students make changes and provide wrong results to their parents. Very few parents are able to keep track of the student’s results slips from previous years and monitor the child’s performance as the paper reports get misplaced. Some students or parents have to travel long distances to respective universities in order to access information on admissions to universities. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information System, I had the passion to startup something and put it out there for people. The above was what motivated me to focus on building an Information and Students Performance Evaluation Tool, GradeScore. What does GradeScore do? GradeScore is an online platform for evaluating high school students’ performance as they work towards joining university courses of their choice. It allows easy access to crucial information about all universities in one portal. Information such as minimum entry points for each course at university and subject requirements for each course at respective university. The platform is also aimed at providing an electronic version of students’ performance records. This is accessible privately by the student or his/her parent/guardian. Would you say you’re fulfilling your passion? Yes I am. To me, the input from users (teachers, students and parents) and the subscriptions are some of the indicators that there was indeed a gap and the product is much needed. How do you go about achieving your business goals? We involve the users, students, teachers and parents, who have greatly contributed to what the system is to-date. Also, we are in partnership with Education Secretariats who recommend our product to the schools. One of the challenges we have experienced in schools is where the teachers in charge of career guidance feel that the project will render them jobless. We managed to bring them on board when we explained that the system is for them to use. It actually simplifies the work guidance counsellors do, the existing manual system is tedious and time consuming. What has been the best moment of your career so far? When I got a scholarship to upgrade my Diploma in Information Technology to BSc Computer Information Systems at Africa University, Zimbabwe. You mentioned you volunteer. As a volunteer, what advice will you give other young women looking to start volunteering? Volunteering is not for people who place importance on financial gains. There are lots of passive benefits attached to it. It should not been seen or treated as if you are doing the organization a favor. Once you commit to volunteering your service somewhere, put in your whole because you just never know who is watching. What is your favourite life quote? This is one of them, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your dreams. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you, too, can be great”. It’s from Mark Twain. Want to see women you know featured on SLA? Tell us what amazing things women are doing in your communities here.