• Using the sun to power education in Tanzania

    Giorgia Scaturro

As part of a pilot project, schoolchildren and their families in a remote Tanzanian village were able to access up-to-date educational materials using e-readers powered by small photovoltaic chargers.
In areas where electricity is largely unavailable and batteries are often unaffordable, an abundant resource like sunshine could be critical for powering education. This concept was tested in Kigonzili school, in the southern Tanzanian region of Iringa, by researchers from the Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland. 
As part of the SunEdu project, ten prototype e-readers were loaded with school textbooks and loaned to ten- to 11-year-old pupils. Teachers then used existing mobile networks and a low-power connection to download further educational material. The devices can also be used to access weekly local and international news, and healthcare and agricultural information of use for the wider community. Alongside Helsinki Metropolia University, the project involved two Finnish companies: solar power firm Suntrica and e-reader supplier Leia Media. The main funder was Tekes, the Finnish funding agency for innovation
This photo gallery shows the two-month pilot, which ran in late 2013 to assess the project’s feasibility and its benefits for school pupils and their families. The overall SunEdu project aims to distribute up-to-date teaching materials across rural Tanzania in a simple and cost-effective way. 
The partners are working with the Tanzanian government to extend the use of these e-readers to other schools in the country. The next step is market research and fundraising for the second stage of the project: to expand the initiative to other East African countries, such as Uganda.