US$2m solar project boosts rural education

The Herald

Rumbidzayi Zinyuke in CHIPINGE

The government and its partners have taken steps to improve the quality of education for all children through the implementation of a solarization project that aims to power rural schools and provide learners with a relevant, inclusive and sustainable education.

The project is being implemented by the Department for Primary and Secondary Education in partnership with Unicef ​​and is funded by the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office with a $2 million grant.

It is expected to provide solar power to 150 schools in remote parts of six districts across the country and serve as the backbone of the initiative to provide internet access to all schools by 2030.

As part of the project, Ngaone Elementary School in Chipinge received a US$24,000 8kV solar array to power the school’s ICT lab, administration buildings and teachers’ houses.

According to the school’s ICT teacher, Mr. Alec Mupambwa, once the school is connected to the internet, the provision of solar energy will enable learners to understand the use of ICT and improve their access to digital learning platforms.

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“We were connected to the electricity grid, but because of the frequent power outages, our students never really had hands-on computing lessons as we focused more on theory,” he said.

“Now that we have reliable solar power, we hope to increase the time they spend in the computer room.”

Mr Mupambwa said although the school currently has no internet connection, teachers are using their smartphones to download study material, which is then loaded onto the computers for learners to use.

The government launched the national e-learning strategy last year, which aims to accelerate the adoption of information communication technologies by connecting schools to the Internet.

“Now that we have solar power, there is no reason to leave our children behind when it comes to ICT. We hope that if we can get more computers and expand our lab, we can go far,” said Mr. Mupambwa.

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The school’s students expressed their gratitude for the solar project, which would help them spend more time in the computer lab.

Success Muyambo, a 7th grade student, said that power shortages have affected his computer skills.

“We started computer classes when we were in 3rd grade, but because there was no electricity most of the time, we had limited time in the computer lab. We hope that we can have more time for the practical things so that we can get more attention before we go to secondary school,” he said.

Lavina Ngweyarudza, who is in fourth grade, said she enjoyed her time in the computer lab.

“My favorite subjects are English and computers and now I know how to turn it on and use it to type a document. I hope to keep learning more about computers, but sometimes we can only spend a short amount of time in the lab because there aren’t enough computers for all of us,” she said.

Tanya Zebroff, education adviser for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, said the program will improve the learning environment in the beneficiary schools.

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“We have provided over $2 million in funding to solarize 150 schools like this one in Zimbabwe’s most rural, remote areas. We are excited that this work will be complete by March next year, giving teachers and students access to a reliable power source and connectivity where they have not had in the past. This will definitely support the improvement of learning in these rural schools,” she said.

Mr Taungana Ndoro, director of communications and advocacy at the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, said the rural school solarization project is a step towards fulfilling the government’s digital learning strategy.

“The solarization project is a step in the right direction because now we have uninterrupted power. The next step is internet connection in schools and then their e-learning will be robust because they have the backbone from internet and electricity,” he said.

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