Category Archives: zambia

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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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Training in Zambia

Category : News , zambia

Saturday / Sunday

Howard finally got Siavonga Primary School’s Windows server working with its thin clients. We helped students from Siavonga High School to prepare for a presentation they are going to do at Youth Day all about Raspberry Pi and RACHEL

Monday Youth Day

Local schools and youth organisations marched around town finishing up at the football field.
They demonstrated a range of traditional songs and dance, interspersed with drama sketches, majorettes and a brass band.
Finally, the invited guests visited some exhibitions that schools had set up. Our young friends from Siavonga High School showed how RACHEL can be accessed through a Raspberry Pi. This piqued the interest of the Zesco (Electricity) engineers who invited Howard to address a meeting of the Zambian Institute of Engineers on Saturday.
The theme of this year’s Youth Day was “Leveraging Opportunities through ICT”.

SHS pupils demonstrating at Youth dayEngineering Institute Zambia conference


We held training at Siavonga High School for teachers interested in teaching programming and running a Code Club.

Scratch trainingscratch training

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International Women’s Day

Category : News , zambia

International Women’s Day, 8th March, was a very joyous day in Siavonga.  Our landlady Florence and I, in matching chtengas, joined the march through Siavonga town led by the local Salvation Army. The parade was a riot of colour as each organisation or group had coordinated their outfits. After a delayed start, we finally arrived at the local football field only two hours late!

international womens dayinternational womens day

We were about to leave after the opening addresses but were called back by one of the local Headteachers to join the invited guests under a marquee and watch the rest of the proceedings. These consisted of performances by local women’s groups and schools. The female engineers of Zesco gave a presentation about power generation and transmission. There was a lot of singing and dancing – including crowd participation! Children from Siavonga Basic School really impressed us with their school choir and two memorable dance and drama offerings.

international womens dayinternational womens day

During all this we were plied with soft drinks and biscuits which was just as well as it was very hot. Lunch followed and then we paid a small fee to join a lake cruise to fund-raise for Youth Day (12th March). We spent much of the time discusiing our project with DEBS (District Education Board Secretary), in particular issues around getting to two lakeside villages next week to fit solar panels.

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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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Please Donate

Category : News , zambia

This visit we are installing solar panels at three off-grid schools to provide them with LED lights and power for charging laptops, running a projector and accessing the learning resources on the Raspberry Pi. See all about how we do this on our website. Two of these remote schools are only accessible by boat at this time of year.

This is by way of an urgent appeal. We have already allocated all the funding received to date but have discovered that one of the remote schools we are visiting on Wednesday has had to close because of a failure with its water pump. Water for the school must be pumped from Lake Kariba.

The solar panel and battery required to fix the problem cost a total of £700.

You can help us by following this link to make a donation or passing this request on to as many people as possible.

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Solar Installation training

Category : News , zambia

Today we held a solar installation training at Siavonga High School.

Teachers from Munyama, Manchamvwa Lakeshore and Siakalinda schools attended. We will be installing two 320W solar panels at each of the schools in the next week.

explaining solar panel installation solar panel installation training We even had a very pregnant lady teacher lending a hand. Fortunately we got through the session without her going in to labour!


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Engineers and Python Programming

Category : News , zambia

Things in Zambia are always subject to change and that’s part of the fascination of the place.

Today we were due to present Giakonda Solar Schools to a group of new Head Teachers and Administrators. There have been many staff transfers this term, including the District Education Board Secretary herself. Many are completely new to the district and do not know what we have been doing for the last three years.

We brought along a Raspberry Pi with RACHEL to demonstrate the e-learning resources. Early arrivals were interested in the African storybooks translated into English.

Then we discovered that the same room was booked for the Swansea University engineering students to discuss their plans to build a Special Needs block at Siavonga Basic School.

meeting with Swansea engineering studentsHead teacher

The Buildings Officer and other relevant people were there. It was fascinating to have the Zambian procurement process explained and to learn more about Special Education in Zambia.

Traditionally, children with special needs have often been kept at home and not sent to school. Siavonga Basic School hopes to attract more such pupils to school by offering them a purpose built block of classrooms.

We look forward to seeing this project gradually come to fulfilment. Tonight we will meet the engineers and discuss how we might support them with IT resources.

This afternoon a large group of enthusiastic High School pupils came back for more Python programming practice.

Python  ProgrammingPython Programming Python ProgrammingPython  Programming

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Buzz Buzz

Category : News , zambia

Bees for Africa

One of the many challenges that face schools and community groups in Zambia is that of earning some money. Schools have few resources and no money for buying extras. Some schools suffer from being in an area where trees are cut down for charcoal. Families move on when there are no more suitable trees.
We have identified a few schools that are interested in keeping bees in order to teach children how to do this and to provide a small income.
In addition, a group of widows, registered as the Daughters of Naomi, want to keep bees. This will be a way of getting funds with which to support older and infirm widows who are not able to earn money themselves.
Daughters of Naomi Widows group want to keep bees for Africa

Help is at hand

We are meeting up with a beekeeper in Monze in a couple of weeks’ time. He will tell us what is needed to make a hive with simple local materials. We also hope he may be willing to travel to Siavonga to give training to those who are interested.
This morning I met with the owner of Lake Kariba Inns who is a very enthusiastic beekeeper. We arranged to visit her on Sunday afternoon to get more information about the equipment she uses and learn from her experience. She has offered to help with a cleanroom when it is time to extract the honey from the comb.

Lake Kariba Inns owner/ beekeeper


These are a few of the many online resources about beekeeping:

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Hello again Zambia!

Category : News , zambia

Arrived safely in Lusaka after a long tiring journey. Thanks Ben Mwanza for picking us up from the airport.

After dropping our bags at Kalulu Backpackers, we went to visit our good friends at Muhunya Solar to check out the equipment we had bought from them. As usual they were able to advise us on the three installations we are doing this visit.

Returned to the hostel for a meal and a Mosi and met with a world possible volunteer Peter and an agricultural machinery lecturer Chimangeni. We hope to be able to work with both of them to bring the resources of RACHEL to a wider community.

Wednesday 28th Feb

Early start for our journey down to Siavonga in the van with the solar equipment, arriving about 12.30 at Siavonga High School. We unloaded batteries and solar panels there, then headed off to Zaninge Guest House to sort the rest of the kit and unpack.

In the evening we met with Chali Mangalesi (Digital Ambassador at SHS) and Geoffrey Phiri of Siavonga Nutrition Group to go over the program.

Thursday 1st March

Met with the new District Education Board Secretary Ephe in her office. Chali and Geoffrey accompanied us and DEBS also invited her standards officers and Mr Rex Moonga the Resource Centre Head to join the group.

We introduced ourselves and explained the background and aims of Giakonda Solar Schools. Howard outlined our plans for this visit and demonstrated RACHEL on the Raspberry Pi. With her background in adult education, DEBS was keen to use such offline resources to help parents become better educated.

We talked about the proposed project of setting up beekeeping in interested schools and using that to provide better employment than charcoal burning.

Then we held a discussion in the resource centre to firm up dates for training, solar installations and meetings. Mr Moonga will communicate these to teachers and DEBS. We are relying on the three solar schools to pick up the equipment prior to their installation date. Travel to two of them is very challenging this time of year and we are hoping to possibly go by boat.

We spent the afternoon in Siavonga Primary School where there was a problem with their HP server which meant 18 of their PCs were not functioning.

We also managed to buy in the market some 12volt LED strip lights to install in the solar schools.

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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