Volunteer Donna and I spent a busy two weeks in Zambia.
We met with Womens’ Cooperatives involved in BeeKeeping and Textiles.
We oversaw the installation of solar power at Sinandambwe Primary School and Kabuyu Primary School. These installations were funded by a small grant from The Oakdale Trust and a generous legacy from the estate of Lesley Walsh. We also supplied computers and offline learning resources. The work was professionally completed by Muhunya Solar.
At the request of the District Education Board Secretary, we visited other schools to check how they were maintaining their IT equipment and solar kit.
The visit ended with a two day Physical Computing Conference in Kafue delivered by partners trained by Giakonda Solar Schools. The event was extremely successful and we are already planning the next one.
Click to tead a full report Sep 2023 Report
In memory of our dear departed Howard, founder member of Giakonda Solar Schools, watch this video tribute to some of his work over the last 8 years.
On 29th May our Zambian partner teachers held a conference at Siavonga Teachers’ Resource Centre.
Trustees Sue and Andy, and volunteer Harry travelled to Zambia to give their support.
The day was well attended by teachers from Siavonga and other parts of Southern province.
Pictures above show some of the group outside the Resource Centre and Francis and Harry setting up kit.
The day started with an explanation of the various Raspberry Pi products from Farai and an introduction to microcontrollers from Macloud, followed by Francis demonstrating using temperature probes and setting up traffic lights.
Thanks to Bridget for organising an excellent lunch which was appreciated by all. The afternoon was devoted to workshops where teachers had an opportunity to program the physical computing equipment and take it away for their schools. We hope it will encourage schools to run Code Clubs where pupils can learn new skills.
Thanks to Kingswell and to Siavonga DEBS for making it possible. We are very proud of the way our presenters shared their expertise with their peers.
It was a great honour to be invited to attend the inaugural conference of NAQEZ Southern Province in Choma and to have the opportunity to address distinguished guests, including Members of Parliament. Daniel Mangwende from Dibbwi Primary School and Francis Kanene from St Vincent de Paul School demonstrated how they used Raspberry Pi and RACHEL in their schools. Delegates and guests were interested to learn about African Story Books in local languages and how schools could start teaching coding using Scratch.
The Southern Province Education Officer was so impressed that he invited us to visit his office and tell him more.
Here is the official NAQEZ- Final report
We’ve come a long way since our first visit to Zambia in 2015. Here is a flavour of what we’ve achieved to date.
We have installed solar power in 15 schools in Siavonga District and 3 schools in Monze District. This enables them for the first time to have lighting and the infrastructure for computers.
We have supplied the learning resources of RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning) to 5 schools with mains power via a Synology NAS server.
But our main focus has been the Raspberry Pi. It acts as a wifi hotspot and does not need mains power. We have used this as a server supplying RACHEL. 80 schools are now regularly using this resource for teaching and learning.
A fundamental part of our project is the training of teachers. On each visit we run courses on solar power, the use of RACHEL off-line learning resources, networking and general computer maintenance, and office applications. To date, in the three districts we visit, a total of 157 teachers from 61 schools have attended one or more of these sessions.
During the COVID pandemic, we have had to adapt our ways of training. During Autumn 2020, Howard delivered 20 online sessions via Zoom to help Zambian teachers learn about programming using Scratch and Python.
In addition to this, thanks to large donations of equipment we have sent out 128 PCs, 79 monitors, and 160 laptops. These were distributed by the local District Education Board Secretaries.
We have also been able to provide training in beekeeping delivered by a trainer from Monze, along with two beehives per school for those who attended. Some of them have been able to start selling jars of honey.
At their own expense, Beth and Lisa of Learning to Learn, visited each school to carry out classroom based workshops with the teachers involved. These sessions were developed in conjunction with the individual teachers to address particular issues they or their pupils were facing.
During the Classroom Based Workshops pupils were encouraged to complete an Affirmations Wheel worksheet and share their affirmations with the rest of the group. This gave pupils opportunities to speak positively about themselves. They were also encouraged to share ambitions through a variety of circle games.
A half day was also spent working with school staff as a group, providing guidance and resources for developing school policies to address attendance and well-being.
There was an opportunity for members of the local community to learn more about the project and the importance of offering equal opportunities to girls.
All schools got together to celebrate the successes of the project and share experiences. Feedback was positive from all stakeholders. Local dignitaries attended and expressed a wish that the project be rolled out to more schools.
We have received a grant from the Welsh Government Wales and Africa Grant Scheme to provide mentoring for teachers in rural schools. They will learn techniques and strategies to encourage pupils to enjoy school, to have a more positive attitude to learning and to themselves, to have improved attendance and achieve their potential.
There were three main objectives to this visit.
1. To check the teachers were confident with using the tablets and Raspberry Pi P400 equipment we have supplied for the Learning to Learn Project. This took the form of a morning session at Siavonga Teachers Resource Centre.
2. To meet stakeholders in person.
We were very grateful for the help of Grant and Shereena at Lake Safari Lodge in supplying a delicious buffet for our Meet and Greet session. We met the teachers involved in the project and they filled in a baseline survey.
We also met our partners, Aaron Chaansa from NAQEZ (National Action for Quality Education in Zambia) and Rita Mkandawire and Mumba Nhlane from The Future is Female. We will be working closely with them to identify positive female role models and to liaise with governmental organisations.
3.To investigate and if possible improve internet access in order that teachers can attend the mentoring sessions via Zoom sessions. We visited five schools in all, making notes of their needs.
Read our full report Siavonga Visit February 2022
A grant from Welsh Governments Wales and Africa Scheme helped us to provide COVID-safe environments in 14 solar powered rural schools in Siavonga District, Zambia.
We have previously distributed COVID guidance charts and non-contact digital thermometers. With the grant, we supplied additional handwashing stations, hygiene and PPE equipment to aid 14 rural schools to run a COVID- safe school for their staff and pupils. Pupils generally bring their own masks but we provided a bank of spare washable ones for the school to distribute where needed. The District Education Board team helped us in the procurement and distribution of this equipment.
Secondly, we provided mobile broadband to support the remote working of our partnership with teachers in Siavonga schools and to enable an increased amount of online teacher training We installed internet communications with broadband routers in 14 solar-powered schools. Our local technician sourced and installed the necessary cables to connect these routers to the solar-powered system and to the existing Raspberry Pi resource network.
This technology will greatly help our planning, monitoring and evaluation of our project through more regular contact with each school. It will also facilitate our training sessions in Digital Literacy, ICT and developing skills using the off-line resources we have already provided. We are regularly delivering weekly Zoom courses with an attendance of at least ten teachers at each one.
With a grant of £3000 from Didymus, Giakonda Solar Schools was able to supply solar power to Siamwiinga School which is 90km away from Siavonga town and caters for 365 pupils (188 B 177 G).
Our trusted supplier, Muhunya Solar supplied and installed four solar panels, four batteries and the necessary cables and gauges. Teachers were instructed in the careful maintenance of the equipment. The school will send us monthly reports on the state of solar panels and batteries, identifying an individual who will take responsibility for this.
The solar equipment funded by Didymus provides LED lighting to classrooms and security lighting outside, as well as the infrastructure to power computer equipment. Teachers are already reporting back on the huge benefits of having solar power. The school can be used in the evening for lesson planning, school clubs or activities involving the community.
With our own additional funding, we supplied Raspberry Pi computers, monitors and a large screen television. We set up the learning resources on one of the Raspberry Pis so that they can be accessed by the PCS and by wireless devices such as phones and tablets that teachers might have. An impact study has shown that our solution is a valuable one. Teachers will make good use of learning resources across the curriculum to plan, prepare and deliver lessons to their classes. Small groups of pupils will use the computers independently to support their learning. All this is possible as a result of having solar power.
We were fortunate enough to have been awarded funding from Welsh Government under their Wales and Africa Grant Scheme to improve the facilities at Bbakasa School.
Due to uncertainties about flying at the outbreak of COVID-19, we were unable to visit the school in person to do the installation. Luckily our suppliers stepped in. Muhunya Solar in Lusaka have supplied all our solar panels and batteries to date and have proved reliable and trustworthy. We have usually bought additional items such as gauges and fuseboxes from UK as it is much cheaper to do so, but circumstances meant we had to buy all the solar equipment in Zambia. The installation took a day and included sockets and light fittings as well as safety features like a lightning rod. This entailed additional expense on top of delivery and installation charges. Luckily we received donations to cover this.
We are developing a small computer hub in the library room. The existing computer equipment consisted of three Raspberry Pis and a couple of laptops. We pre-installed appropriate software to run 5 new Raspberry Pis as PC workstations and one as a server delivering RACHEL learning resources. The workstations run LibreOffice word processor, spreadsheet and other office applications, plus media editing software and Scratch and Python programming languages. We also supplied a large screen television to help teachers deliver class lessons.
Read the full report here. Work is still continuing remotely .
The aim of the activity was to gain information on the impact of our project. We focused on 14 schools in Siavonga District which have received solar panels as well as RACHEL learning resources on a Raspberry Pi. These schools have 4750 pupils (2456 boys and 2284 girls).
This visit strengthened GiaKonda’s understanding of our impact, and improved the sustainability of our activities. The District Education Board Secretary has given her blessing to the Digital Literacy Forum and provided a location for it.
Through school visits, GiaKonda were able to
- Gain understanding of what Zambian stakeholders felt were the most significant impacts of the equipment installed and training delivered by us
- Identify and report on levels of use, maintenance and care of the equipment installed
- Accurately understand the levels of digital literacy within schools and what impact GiaKonda’s work has had on skills
- Provide an opportunity to stakeholders to share challenges and be heard.
Read our report here
The main purpose of this visit was to install solar power in three remote rural schools- Dibbwi, Nashongo and Manchamvwa Inland.
There were serious issues with access so we called staff from the three schools together at Kawila school to demonstrate the set up and show how all the equipment worked. The schools were able to assist each other as a cluster to complete the solar installations.
We also held 6 training sessions on a variety of topics. One day was concerned with explaining how to refurbish an old PC or laptop. We have donated a large number of PCS thanks to the help of Operation Sunshine in shipping them for us. We demonstrated how to add a new hard drive and install an operating system.
Visit to Monze June 2018
We visited Monze District to install solar power at two schools on behalf of Friends of Monze.
This rural school was 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!
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.
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.
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.
Visit to Siavonga March 2018
Between 27th February and 17th March, we installed solar power at three schools in Siavonga District; Syakalinda, Manchamvwa Lakeshore Primary School and Munyama Primary School. Each installation consisted of two 320W solar panels, two 220Amh batteries, the necessary cables and connectors, a fuse box and fuses, a solar controller and battery gauge. This powers laptops, LED strip lights, a router and the Raspberry Pi computer. The Raspberry PI computer is a wireless hotspot from which laptops, tablets or smart phones can access the offline learning resources of RACHEL.
We held three teacher training days at Siavonga High School (on Solar Installation, Code club and Programming and Networking and Network Maintenance) and two training sessions with SHS pupils where they learnt about Scratch and Python Programming. We also held training sessions in Monze and Chilanga Districts. Read More here.
Visit to Siavonga Autumn 2017
We’ve just returned from another successful visit to Siavonga, Southern District, Zambia where we have been working for three years providing solar power and computer resources to rural schools.
This time we were a party of seven; Howard and Wendy Kirkman of Giakonda Solar Schools, Sian Penticost, primary school teacher; Luke Brereton IT student; Jason Brown, software engineer; Adele Stuart linguist and teacher of English as a second language(TESL) and Malcolm Boorer, videographer.
We had set ourselves various tasks, chief of which was that of providing solar power to Kawila School. We are very grateful to The Waterloo Foundation whose funding grant made this possible.
We installed two solar panels and two deepcycle batteries with the necessary fusebox and controller.
With help from staff and enthusiastic community members, this was achieved in a day. The school now has four laptops, LED lighting, a projector, and access to offline learning resources.
Our videographer, Malcolm Boorer captured the events on film which you can see here.
We ran a series of training courses for teachers and system administrators, all of which were well attended and well received. They included very practical sessions to enable people to get to grips with the hardware and software supplied.
We installed Synology DiskStation servers in three large schools. Networked computers can access RACHEL offline learning resource and staff can set up users to access and store information securely.
We visited a series of schools to troubleshoot any small issues that had arisen in the past few months.
Download a copy of our report by clicking below
general report sep 2017
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 a detailed 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://hubcymru.org) 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.
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 Siavonga, Zambia, 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. We focussed 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.