Mobile, solar schools bring power to the powerless
Four examples show how solar-powered mobile schools can bring computer education to some of the world’s poorest children.
Beep beep! For some students, hopping on the school bus is hopping into the classroom. Four communities are using solar-powered mobile classrooms to overcome inaccessibility to the power grid.Skip to next paragraph
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Last week, we looked at a bus in Chitradurga, India, that brought modern computer technology to students in energy-poor rural schools through solar power. SELCO, a private energy company, engineered the bus with 400 watts of solar modules, 10 laptops, fans, and lights.
Circumventing the area's erratic power supply with its solar panels, this bus provides much-needed modern computer education and exposure to the advantages of solar energy. Motoring through rural villages in Chitradurga since January 2012, the bus has reached “60 schools and 2,081 children,” the New Indian Express reported in early September.
We found three more pretty exciting examples of solar-powered mobile schools that bring computer education to some of the world’s poorest:
Bangladeshi floating schools
Where there’s more water than land, boats replace buses, and with rising sea levels, low-income Bangladeshi students have difficulty getting to school altogether.
Pushed to inaccessible riverside settlements that lack basic infrastructure, students often can’t get to school due to monsoon flooding. Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a nonprofit organization started by Mohammed Rezwan, rides the rising tides with his solar-powered floating schools.
Trained as an architect and personally experienced with soggy school disruptions in Bangladesh, Rezwan rode a brainwave that led him to floating schools. Combining the best of traditional boat design and modern sustainable practices, the organization's 54 boats have been operating since 2002 and have served over 90,000 families.
The boats have been outfitted with waterproof roofs, solar panels, computers, high-speed Internet, and solar lamps, which allow students and their families to study or work at night and save money on kerosene lamps, which are traditionally used but smoky and expensive. According to IRIN, Rezwan gives the lamps as incentives for top students. This doubles as advertising—the sale of these lamps helps fund and sustain Rezwan’s NGO.
The floating schools were so popular, Rezwan added library and health clinic boats as well. As seen in this video, it's not just the school-aged who benefit from this armada of enlightenment.
Women and girls, who are often denied traditional education opportunities, can find out about sustainable farming techniques, health and sanitation tips that they can share with their community. With a little creative thinking, Rezwan has turned water—that once divided—into a channel for knowledge and communication.
Samsung solar-powered internet schools
In Africa, Samsung implements part of its corporate social responsibility initiative in the form of mobile solar-powered internet schools, which come in the guise of shipping containers.
While the containers are not as mobile as the SELCO bus or Bangladeshi boats, these energy-independent classrooms still overcome the energy barriers that keep students from being trained in modern computer technology. These 40-foot-long shipping containers can be transported via truck to various rural communities, and with the durable, rubber-based solar panels mounted on the roof, they can power 21 computers for up to nine hours a day.
As reported by Engineering News, Samsung launched a pilot project in Boksburg, South Africa, a year ago and the company now says that it provides a “technology-rich learning and teaching environment to K-12 classrooms across five countries in Africa—South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan" and aims to scale into more countries in the coming years.