Using the sun to power education in Tanzania
To widen access to education, the SunEdu project aims to use technology to distribute up-to-date teaching materials across rural Tanzania in a simple and cost-effective wayHelsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Sunshine can be a vital source of electricity in off-grid settlements. A new solar-powered learning system based on prototype e-readers was piloted in this village school in the southern region of IringaHelsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
To begin with, school textbooks were loaded onto ten e-readers (one on the right). Educational updates and other material were then uploaded to an online cloud server from which they were downloaded to the e-readers using a wireless Bluetooth connection on a smartphone.Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Rural schools are also major hubs for distributing information in villages. The e-readers were regularly updated with useful informationHelsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Ten pupils from this off-grid classroom in Kigonzili school tested the e-readersHelsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Researchers from the Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Finland worked for two months with pupils, teachers and villagers to implement the projectHelsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
The e-readers and charging system were designed for people with little experience with technology by Finnish companies Leia Media and SuntricaHelsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Pupils and parents tested the e-readers in their off-grid homes, keeping diaries detailing their thoughts and experiencesHelsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
The solar charger placed on the roof of this students home is designed to operate even in harsh climate conditions. The device has an LED light to allow pupils to read and study at home in the eveningHelsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
As well as educational material, the e-readers were uploaded with local and international news, and information on health and agriculture, for use by both pupils and their familiesHelsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
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.