Author Archives: wendyk

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Category : News

Since 2015 Giakonda Solar Schools have been providing RACHEL  (freely available here) via Raspberry Pi computers to rural schools in Siavonga District, Southern Province, Zambia.

Schools in Zambia have many challenges including large class sizes, very few resources and expensive, erratic or non-existent mains electricity. We identified twenty six schools of the thirty five government schools in the District as having no access to mains power. (This despite Siavonga lying on the northern shore of Lake Kariba with its huge hydro electric station!)

Our solution was to install solar panels and batteries and supply laptops and a Raspberry Pi with RACHEL on 64GB sd card. LED lights were also a welcome addition. The Head Teacher of Sianyoolo Primary school commented, “We have lights, we have learning resources. Now we are a real school.”

We have also provided RACHEL to five larger powered schools via a Synology DiskStation server and networked computers to access the resource. It has made a great difference to teachers and pupils alike. Feedback from teachers has included comments like;

“I was able to complete the assignments for my Master’s degree using RACHEL”;

“It helps me plan lessons and check up on anything I’m not sure of”;

“It is better using an offline resource because the internet is expensive and we can’t always access it. Also pupils are not distracted by things like FaceBook.”

using RACHELRACHEL training

Pupils are keen to use it because they are able to do personal research and find things not available in their textbooks.

They even joke that they are “going to see RACHEL!”

Pupils using RACHELboys using RACHEL

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Training Zambian teachers

Category : News , zambia

On each visit we ensure that we make time for training Zambian teachers who are always eager to extend their knowledge and skills.

So it turned out to be not the best timed visit to Siavonga. Although term had officially begun children seemed to be slowly trickling back over the first few weeks and teachers were busy planning for exams in November. Nevertheless, they were as keen as ever to attend training and offered very positive feedback.

As our volunteers included primary school teacher Sian, we took advantage of her experience to deliver a course on Basic Excel at Siavonga Primary School. Many of the attendees were from that school, some new to using Excel, but all picked it up quickly and thought it would be useful for their own record-keeping as well as teaching pupils. They loved the visual aids she made.

training zambian teacherstraining zambian teachers

Sian also taught English Composition to a small class again with a laminated guide.
Teachers are able to download some learning resources from our website Learning resources

Computer-based training took the form of four day courses.
First was IT Security and System Maintenance. Howard stressed the importance of running Avast , Malwarebytes and CCleaner to protect networks from infection from connection to the internet or use of insecure USB drives.

For the larger schools we ran a course on Setting up and Using Synology Diskstation. This piece of equipment allows for sharing of files and access to a wealth of learning resources.

A vital course for all schools was that on Using the offline resource RACHEL across the Curriculum. RACHEL stands for Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning and is available from Teachers particularly enjoyed having time to search RACHEL for topics relevant to their subjects.

Our final course was on Networking and Network Maintenance. This involved as much hands-on experience as possible. Being able to repair ethernet cables will be very helpful in keeping computer systems working.

Synology DiskStation at Siavonga High Schooltraining zambian teachers

training zambian teachers

Over 40 teachers attended from 10 schools, despite the long distances involved for some.

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Solar Power for Kawila

Category : News , solarpower , zambia

The main purpose of this visit to Zambia was to install solar power via solar panels at Kawila Primary School, giving them power for the first time. This is a remote school which serves 15 surrounding villages.

We were greeted by staff, pupils and members from the local villages. Philemon also came over from Dambilo School to help.

volunteers with Philemon

Everyone lent a hand right from the start. They soon understood what was needed to check out and connect the panels, then sort out the battery.

kit for solar power installationsetting up panels to give solar power

setting up kitPTA member crimping with Howard

internal solar power kitinternal control panel

We even mounted the panels on the roof thanks to a couple of intrepid village lads.

panels are up - solar power at last

The solar panels and batteries provide a robust sustainable solution for schools such as Kawila. We have previously installed solar power at two other schools in the area (Dambilo and Sianyoolo) and hope they will be able to support each other.

Next we shared a drink made from maize and sugar followed by a delicious lunch of nshima, rape leaves and chicken.

Adele and Sian spent some time with the pupils while Malcolm interviewed and filmed staff, helpers and PTA members.

Sian teaching Well Done!adele with group of kids

When we left, the solar panels were powering LED lights, a router, a projector and a Raspberry Pi3 with RACHEL offline learning resource. We also gave the school three laptops.

After a successful day, all that remained was to get some thick cloth from the local market to block out the sunlight.

curtainschildren at school

We were able to complete this part of our project thanks to a grant from The Waterloo Foundation. Muhunya Solar of Lusaka helped with advice on the solar power set up, also donating some of the cables.

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Sponsors wanted!

Category : News , sponsors

We have a large number of PCs and laptops ready to be donated to schools in Zambia and those in need in Swansea. Now it’s a matter of sponsors wanted to help us refurbish them with new hard drives.

£50 will provide a PC or laptop hard drive. We will advertise your donation on social media and keep you updated with news from the recipient. Donate here.

hard drive imagelaptop hard drives

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Zambia All systems go!

Category : News , zambia

With just three weeks before we leave for Zambia, we’re busy getting kit set up.

We are pre-installing RACHEL on five Raspberry Pi Computers and two or three Synology DiskStations. This will provide world-class offline learning resources to approximately 3000 pupils and teachers in rural schools.

We are also checking over some laptops and access points and working on the training courses we will run. Busy times!

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Hard drives

Category : News , sponsors

We are extremely grateful for a very generous donation of surplus PCs and laptops (minus their hard drives unfortunately). We intend to refurbish them and pass them on to schools in Zambia and also to disadvantaged families in Swansea.

We will  put in new hard drives and instal a new operating system and LibreOffice software. They will be used in conjunction with RACHEL as a great learning resource.

Are there any kind souls out there who can help us with drives? 120GB would be OK though the bigger, the better. If so contact

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Preparations for September trip

Category : News , solarpower , zambia


I’ve finally booked the flights today so that’s good progress with preparations for our September trip to Siavonga, Zambia! It’s exciting to have Sian, Luke and Malcolm coming along with us to share their skills and expertise. We’re very grateful to them for volunteering their time and funding their own travel as we do.


We’ve set ourselves a challenging schedule with five teacher training days, two solar panel installations, and three installations of RACHEL elearning resource on Synology Diskstation.
So, at the end of our visit we hope to have achieved the following if funds allow:
1) One additional rural Primary School will have solar power for LED lights, a Raspberry Pi distributing RACHEL wirelessly and four laptops for teachers to access the resource. Read more about RACHEL here.
2) Siavonga Nutrition Group (SNG) will have solar power for women’s groups to use their sewing machines.
3) Three big secondary schools with power, will be able to access RACHEL from  Synology Diskstations.
4) SNG will have a Raspberry Pi allowing their office to be a hotspot for local children to access learning resources.
5) A large primary school will have wireless access over its whole site via additional access points.
6) A local Resource centre will have the resources of RACHEL via Raspberry Pi to make it a learning hub for the local community.
7) We will  train teachers in hardware maintenance, network security, programming with Raspberry Pi, using the RACHEL resources and Maths and English topics for primary children.
8) Finally, if possible, we hope to supply Raspberry Pi servers to four other primary schools.

Sample Costs

So, if you would like to contribute to any of our expenses, this is an approximate idea of costs, although any donation is welcome.
Raspberry Pi £36
Raspberry Pi server £80
Hard drive for Synology Diskstation £60
Ex demo Synology Diskstation from £200

We always welcome donations of routers, access points and working laptops/ tablets.

RACHEL on Raspberry PiSynology DiskstationIT trainingsolar panels

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Africa Day 2107

On Thursday May 25th Giakonda Solar Schools attended Africa Day 2017 at the Senedd Cardiff. We were invited by Hub Cymru Africa to showcase our project and meet our Assembly Members and other Welsh-based charities working in Africa.

Howard at Africa Day

Connor talking to UKIP Assembly Member

It was an interesting and enjoyable day, thanks in part to the entertainment provided by Zim Voices Choir.

During the proceedings we held a minute’s silence to remember the people killed by the recent terrorist bombing in Manchester.

minutes silence for Manchester

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Katalumba re-visited

Category : News , zambia

In 2010 a group of 29 Scouts from Surry and Berkshire travelled to Katalumba School in Siavonga to complete the building of three classrooms in conjunction with some Zambian Scouts. It was the culmination of two years hard work, fundraising and training organised by Jools Sore from Andover. The new centre made a huge difference to the lives of the local children, who previously had to walk up to 10 km through the bush.

Scouts from East England
Read about their experiences here and here

One of their number, Sarah, got in touch after seeing this website asking about how things are progressing. The art work on the wall still brightens up the classroom.

Sarah paints hand print leaf

The swings are still there although the school is being extended.

enjoying the swingsswings in background

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Router en route to Zambia

Category : News

Thanks to a customer donation, a D-Link router is en route to a school in Mutende, Northern Zambia where it will be used in conjunction with a Raspberry Pi to deliver off-line learning resources.
Raspberry Pi 3
The resources comprise RACHEL and Khan Academy. RACHEL stands for Rural Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning and the software is freely available from

Someone’s discarded IT equipment has been put to a great new use and will enable a large number of pupils to access world-class learning materials.