Giakonda Solar Schools from Cwmbran has been using the Welsh built Raspberry Pi computers and LED lights powered by solar panels to transform classrooms in rural Zambia into community learning hubs.
In a country where sunshine is plentiful, Giakonda Solar Schools decided that the solar panels would be the perfect sustainable source to provide energy for the schools.
The panels were installed by people from the local community in the Siavonga region, following some brief training, to power the IT and provide themselves with the opportunity to develop their IT skills.
This is done using the RACHEL platform, an offline server full of educational content from teaching curriculums, Wikipedia, classic literature, reference material and textbooks installed on the Raspberry Pis.
Giakonda Solar Schools have also been working with the Ministry of Education in Zambia to see how the technology can help children achieve key points set out in the national curriculum.
Wendy Kirkman of Giakonda Solar Schools said: “The remoteness of one of the schools we helped, which can only be accessed by boat presented quite a few challenges, but the eagerness and resolute nature of the people in the local community, helped us get all the equipment in place.
“As well as IT equipment, we decided to take an engineer and sanitation officer to check the village facilities and water supply. This helped ensure that the risks of cholera were minimised and that the old damaged water pump was repaired.”
The latest installation of solar panels, means that Giakonda Solar Schools have managed to train and install equipment in 11 of the 26 off grid schools in the region.
The project was funded by the Welsh Government with support from Hub Cymru Africa.
Hannah Sheppard at Hub Cymru Africa said: “The most pleasing element about this project is that local people are now able to install and manage the equipment themselves. Partnership work with buy in from the local authorities means that the long-term success of this work will help develop much needed IT skills and provide teaching materials to rural communities.”
Giakonda Solar Schools have since returned to Wales and are planning their next set of installations and awareness raising activities as well as looking at how they can work alongside other Welsh charities to support IT developments and other development opportunities in rural Zambia.