Solar laptops light up smiles

2011-08-13 15:31

For years pupils and teachers at the Batshazwayo Secondary School near Eshowe in ­Zululand have battled to make use of teaching aids because of the lack of electricity.

Now, thanks to a solar-laptop initiative, Batshazwayo may be able to live up to its name, which means to inspire awe.
They are just one of the 1 200 schools in KwaZulu-Natal which still have no power ­supply.

While other schools have been benefiting from the Teacher Laptop Initiative (TLI) – which equips teachers with laptops as a learning ­resource – schools such as ­Batshazwayo have been ­outside the programme, which got under way last July after a five-year delay.

The KwaZulu-Natal ­education department has now finally stepped in.

“Schools without electricity do all their work manually. The provision of solar laptops assists them to capture school records and management issues electronically,” said Sihle Mlotshwa, education department spokesperson.

Each laptop comes with a mobile solar panel which charges the battery, and that of a printer, for up to five hours.

“No? electricity is needed, just sunlight,” says Mlotshwa, adding that 100 schools benefited from last week’s roll-out.

Taking the plan national will be discussed at an inter­provincial education forum in the near future.

For Batshazwayo, this technological injection will serve more than just administrative functions.

School principal Mandla Xulu believes this will bring the world closer to their children, most of whom have never been further than Eshowe.

Nestled in the heart of the rugged and deep rural Slambo community near ­Mbongolwane, the school achieved a 41% pass-rate last year and has a high rate of­ teenage pregnancy.

“This area suffers from high levels of poverty and ­unemployment. Many of these children are in child-headed households,” said Xulu.

Dino Mondlane, head of ­science at the school, said when he first arrived at the school in 2007, he was shocked to find Grade 11 pupils who had never seen a TV set, while some had not even been exposed to ­radios.

The pupils are over the moon with excitement about their ­exposure to ­technology.

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