How it all started
In autumn 2014, Swansea Siavonga Partnership (Part of Swansea University Discovery Student volunteering project) approached us to build a website for them. During conversations about their work, we were asked if we would travel with them to Siavonga, Zambia to set up computers. When we agreed, they dropped the bombshell – some of the schools had no mains power!
This led us to develop a solution using solar power and Raspberry Pi computers. These have the functionality of a PC but are small, inexpensive and run on 5V. As well as using them for office applications and to teach programming, we added an offline learning resource called RACHEL. This stands for Rural Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning. It provides an immense amount of information particularly useful for rural schools and the wider community they serve.
On that first visit to Zambia in January 2015, we set up ten Raspberry Pi computers in the Siavonga District, four of them in two schools which had no electricity. To achieve that we used deep cycle lorry batteries and solar panels which we purchased in Lusaka with a grant from S & C Electric Europe. Donations from family, friends and supporters helped us buy additional equipment such as connectors, cables and tools. Read the report of our January 2015 Project here.
In July 2015 we spent another month in Zambia consolidating the work and extending the project. Our focus was on making the project sustainable by training teachers and an IT technician (Bridget Muyuni).This time our sponsors were University of Wales Trinity St Davids
Read our July 2015 report here.
In February 2016 we sent our technician Connor to Zambia to work alongside Bridget to extend her IT skills so that she can better support the schools in Siavonga when we are not there. Unfortunately we have not yet managed to get her a visa to travel here for further training. He was able to carry on setting up more hubs of Raspberry Pi computers and dealing with more difficult technical issues. Thanks to Hub Cymru Africa (http://hubcymruafrica.cymru/hub/newsarchive.html) for sponsorship. Find out more about Connor’s trip from BBC Wales.
Summer 2016 brought us another grant from S & C Electric Europe.
With the money we bought solar panels, battery and all the necessary equipment to provide solar power to an additional school, Dambilo. Thanks to having helped Howard set up panels at another school, Philemon Chikoondo, the head teacher,was able to set up the equipment himself.
In Autumn 2016 we sent off 8 solar panels which were kindly donated by SolarPlants of Baglan Bay, Swansea .
In February / March 2017 we spent three busy weeks in Zambia, during which time we installed solar power in four schools (Game, Katalumba, Namumu and Sianyoolo), thanks to the donation of the panels and a grant from Hub Cymru Africa.
School staff and members of the local community all helped
install the panels under Howard’s watchful eye.
The system should need little maintenance if used properly.
We delivered five teacher training days to help improve staff competence and confidence with IT.
In three schools which already have power we upgraded their computer networks. We set up two of them to share RACHEL learning resource via two DiskStation NAS servers kindly donated by Synology UK
Download our latest report here