Category Archives: solarpower

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Grant funding for 2019

Category : News , solarpower , sponsors , zambia

We are very pleased to announce that we have received the following grant funding for 2019.

Wales for Africa Grants

Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa Grants Scheme has awarded Giakonda Solar Schools £10,000 to supply solar power to three more schools in the Siavonga District of Zambia. We’ve identified these with the help of the local District Education Board Secretary. We hope to visit in the spring to carry out the project, which also includes the installation of laptops, projectors, and LED lights. At the centre of our solution lies the offline learning resource of RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning). This is delivered to all wireless enabled devices via a Raspberry Pi computer used as a wireless hotspot.

The Waterloo Foundation

We must also thank The Waterloo Foundation who have awarded us £3200 to carry out research in Siavonga District. We want to find out the impact our project is having on pupils, teachers and the wider community served by the schools. We have supplied solar power as the infrastructure for learning resources. Now we need to prove the impact that has had. We’ll publish our findings on our return from Zambia.

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Category : News , solarpower

We planned to visit Kampuna, a rural school built by Friends of Monze. It is a standard design school consisting of 3 classrooms and a head teacher office. It has no mains power.
Our purpose was to install two 320W solar Panels and two 220Amh Batteries to provide power.
We expected to be using the vehicle belonging to the Ministry of Education – a Land Cruiser that can cope well off-road. Due to a mix-up we had no land cruiser. A local boarding school stepped in to provide a lorry!
panels on lorryKampuna community members

Members of the local community helped get the panels on the roof and connected to the batteries. They mounted the solar controller, fuse box and battery gauge neatly on a piece of wood. The solar set up was complete.

up on to the roofsetting up battery and controllers
The school can use solar power to charge laptops, run a projector and have LED lighting. We also installed a Raspberry Pi computer which acts as a wireless hotspot and delivers an off-line learning resource called RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning). This resource contains a vast amount of learning materials to help teachers research unfamiliar subjects, prepare lessons and present them via the projector. It can be accessed via any wireless enabled device.
Some women from the PTA spent a lot of time looking at health guides and at African storybooks.
An enterprising local barber turned up with his clippers and gave Howard a haircut! He had immediately seen the potential of solar power.

gauges for solar set up

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Mwiinga Malimvwa

Category : News , solarpower

Solar Panels for Mwiinga Malimvwa School

Friends of Monze have just completed the building of a 3 classroom school and teacher’s house in the very remote village of Mwiinga Malimvwa.

Villagers made the bricks and provided the labour. Nine young people were trained as apprentice bricklayers on the project. All completed the qualification including three young women.

Giakonda Solar Schools installed two solar panels to provide power for LED lighting, laptops and a projector. We also set up RACHEL on a Raspberry Pi so that the school has a large learning resource.

Mwiinga Malimvwa viewExplaining parts of solar set upsolar set upsolar panelsattaching to batterysetting up panelsUp on to the roofpanels in place

Today was the official handover to the District Education Board Secretary. About 400 people turned up to join the celebration, and partake of the feast.. There was singing and dancing, but also a lot of long speeches!

dancingpupils waiting to danceYoung female bricklayer

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Lakeshore schools

Category : News , solarpower , zambia

Lakeshore Schools

Early start as we had to go to the harbour for 6.30am start for visit to lakeside schools. In the event we actually left just before 8am despite an assurance that we would not be working on Zambian time!

A trip by boat to Lakeshore schoolsLake Kariba

We were joined by the educational standards officer (representing DEBS), water engineers bringing a refurbished pump, and environmental health officers who wanted to talk to the village communities about cholera and the importance of good sanitation.

We used a small speed boat which managed to hold four 60KG batteries, four solar panels, assorted solar equipment and tools and 8 people. Due to our late departure, we bounced over waves as the wind rises between 8.30 and 11am each day.

Manchamvwa Lakeshore Primary School

After a couple of hours (and rather splashed!) we neared Manchamvwa Lakeshore village. Our captain had to negotiate his way carefully past a sunken forest whose bare branches showed above the water. A large amount of the area we were sailing over becomes fertile fields in the dry season. Many people had taken a chance on planting maize, but the abundant rains this year had left it brown and under a few feet of water.

A group of older pupils helped us carry the equipment a kilometre to the school. Howard revised the process of solar installation with school staff and PTA members, then started connecting things up.

Solar panels for Lakeshore schoolsolar panels for Lakeshore school

looking at RACHEL elearning resourceLED lights working at Lakeshore school

I showed members of staff the laptops we had brought and demonstrated how to use them to access Raspberry Pi with its off-line digital resources (RACHEL). This school has 415 pupils who come in a morning or afternoon session to be taught by the five teachers.

We met the local headmen, PTA and a large group of parents who had assembled to receive advice on keeping cholera away by good sanitation practices. We told them about our project and received a very warm welcome. They expressed thanks for the fact that we had promised to bring solar power to them and had actually done so, unlike other organisations in the past.

village meeting at Lakeshore schoolsolar panels for Lakeshore schhol

Munyama Primary School

Next we took to the boat to return along Lake Kariba to Munyama School. Again pupils carried the equipment and we walked behind through long grass. The vegetation in both these villages is lush and green with bright red birds and dragonflies flying around.


Howard re-capped the process of solar installation and then we stopped for a much-needed lunch of nshima, goat meat and rape leaves. Suitably refreshed, we carried on with the task in hand.

Pupils wanted to sing for us – lovely melodic singing- and say some poetry. One little girl in particular moved me when she said, “We children are all the same. Why should not the rural child have the same opportunities as the urban child?”

This is an inequality we are working to redress to the best of our ability.

The school had been obliged to close because there was no water for handwashing and flushing toilets. The water engineers had brought a pump with them to get things working again. We watched with bated breath as they tested it – thankfully all was well. It is a large pump which needs a generator to power it. We had hoped to provide a solar solution but the number of panels required to power it would be too expensive. We are researching how we might assist either by a smaller solar pump, or possibly by providing a clean storage tank.

Back along the Lake to Siavonga after a busy but rewarding day. Not only had we brought solar power to two remote schools, but our visit had also facilitated the delivery of the pump, and the inspection and training of communities in good sanitation.

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Solar Panels for Syakalinda

Category : News , solarpower , zambia

Today was the day to install solar panels for Syakalinda Primary School. This school is 4.5km off the tarmac road but we managed to cope with the ruts and bumps and get there in a couple of hours. We were welcomed eagerly (in fact they phoned several times to check our progress!)

The school is in a beautiful setting with lush vegetation around – at least at this time of year.  A public holiday has been announced at the last minute by President Lungo. This was probably sensible in view of the fact that we’ve got Women’s Day-today-Sat-Sun-Youth’s Day(Mon). Everyone was going to be in holiday mood today anyway.

Solar panels for Syakalinda view from school

As we arrived the children were all lining up to receive nshima as part of a government feeding program. Nshima is made of corn and is starchy and filling with little nutritional value.

Solar panels for Syakalinda childrens feeding programSolar panels for Syakalinda Kitchen for childrens feeding program

Members of staff and PTA were on hand to carry out the installation of the panels under Howard’s watchful eye. As always, climbing on the roof looked scary!

Solar panels for SyakalindaSolar panels for Syakalinda

Celebrations and thanks followed!

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Hub Cymru Africa Innovation Award

Category : News , solarpower , zambia

Hub Cymru Africa Awards 2018

We’re delighted to announce that we received the Hub Cymru Africa Innovation Award last night from the First Minister at the Hub Cymru Africa Awards 2018.

Hub Cymru Africa innovation Award 2018award trophy made of Welsh Oak and slate

The award  recognised innovation in project design or implementation. We have developed a simple but effective solution to providing solar power and computer resources to schools in rural Zambia. During a number of visits over three years, we have continually refined the system.

Our Project

To date we have installed solar panels in 8 schools, with 3 more to be equipped this February. First we demonstrate the set up to teachers and local community members. Then, under supervision, they themselves undertake the installation. We make sure that they understand  the basics of maintenance and have the necessary tools to do this. This approach has resulted in one headteacher being able to instal solar panels we donated, without us even being in Zambia at the time!

We use the Raspberry Pi computer to deliver a vast range of offline learning resources, as this is low powered and inexpensive. The resource is called RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning). Laptops are able to access the information wirelessly in a safe environment without the dangers and distractions of the internet. Schools are not dependent on being able to access or indeed afford the internet. At present we are developing a means of accessing log files on the Raspberry Pi to enable monitoring and reporting on content accessed.

The solar set up also provides enough power for LED lights, a projector and phone charging. The use of a projector has great impact in making learning more interesting for classes (often in excess of 50 pupils). LED lights mean that schools can continue to function long after dark, making it easier for teachers to do marking and lesson preparation.

For schools that have mains power we network their computer systems to a server enabling safe sharing of files and access to the RACHEL learning resources. We place great emphasis on training of teachers so that they can use the technology with confidence.

We also encourage the wider community to use the resources as they contain a wealth of articles and videos on subjects relevant to life in a remote area.

Our solution is easily rolled out in any remote community and the benefits are considerable for a modest outlay.

Our Sponsors

We could not have done this without the help of grants and donations from our sponsors:
Hub Cymru Africa
The Waterloo Foundation
University of Wales Trinity St Davids
Swansea University
S & C Electric Europe
Coleg SirGar
Pentrehafod School
Synology UK

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Zambia visit

Category : News , solarpower , zambia

We’re busy planning our next visit to Zambia in February when we will be installing SolarPanels in 3 rural schools and carrying out a lot of teacher training.

panels are upnetworking course

Can anyone support us by donating routers and / or access points? We use these to extend access to the vast offline resources of RACHEL on a RaspberryPi server. They do not have to be superfast 10/100 is alright.

Raspberry Pi with RACHELPupils using RACHEL

We’re also still looking for unwanted hard drives (laptop or PC) for refurbishing equipment to take out to schools with power.

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Chilanga Primary School

Category : News , solarpower , zambia

On our way to Lusaka at the start of our homeward journey, we called at Chilanga Primary School, a very large school catering for many vulnerable children. The computers had been moved from their normal hub to the library so that they could be spaced out for the Grade 9 ICT Practical exams. The IT teacher, Joel had made a good job of this.

Chilanga Primary School libraryChilanga Primary School setting up Synology

Our purpose this time was to install a Synology DiskStation to deliver RACHEL to all PCs on the network. Howard and Joel worked together on this and Joel also had some practice on making and testing network cables. When all the PCs are moved back on Monday, the system should be fine. We were not quite sure that the DiskStation hard drive was functioning perfectly so have bought a replacement which can work alongside.

Chilanga Primary School We could access RACHEL resource from the Synology DiskStation via iPhone or any other wireless device and when cabled, all the PCs will access it too.

On Saturday morning we visited ABESU Women’s Cooperative at Chongwe. We had arranged to check out their solar set up along with two technicians from Muhunya Solar. The community was 6Km up a dirt road off the main road. They had ten solar panels which were very dusty and were no longer functioning efficiently. The technicians looked at the controllers and inverter and everything was as should be. They were using eight batteries and these seemed to be the problem. Either they had not been fully charged before initial use, or too many appliances had been connected to the system so that they were not keeping charged above 50%.


chongwe batterieschongwe abesu

Our handy technicians checked over the generator that was driving the water pump and advised what action needed to be taken there.


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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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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