by Ayesha Osman

South African children can have a brighter future by bringing computers and educational content to rural schools in a low cost, energy efficient and sustainable manner.

One of the biggest problems facing young South Africans today is obtaining a meaningful education. Currently, more than 77% of schools in South Africa do not have access to computers and over 3500 schools don’t even have electricity. Some common issues include overcrowded classrooms and the sharing of limited resources such as desks, chairs and even textbooks.

The Solar Powered Learning (SPLAN) project is a solution to this problem. SPLAN is a low cost, energy efficient and sustainable way of giving learners in under-resourced schools access to computers and educational resources. The project makes use of Raspberry Pi computers which are cheap, robust and easy to maintain. And solar power will be used to power the computers, introducing green living to the young learners.

However, more important than the hardware is the computers’ content. The learners will have access to thousands of educational videos and tutorials as well as Wikipedia pages and e-books. Programs such as Khan Academy, Numeric and Scratch will be used.

All of the content will be available offline and teachers can use Khan Academy as a tool to monitor students’ tutorials and progress. Siyafunda has offered to provide training and support to educators to adequately prepare them for the use of the computers and software.

In addition to this, interactive video call language lessons will be set up. This program will be between the learners speaking an African Language and learners using English, breaking cultural divides, building friendships and confidence and contributing to the beloved spirit of Ubuntu.

The first SPLAN prototype will be set up in Cosmo City, a developing area with a community

that is eager to uplift themselves. The LAN will consist of 21 Raspberry Pi computers filled with educational content. Hundreds of learners will be able to make use of the LAN every week.

However, in order for the LAN to be set up, funding is needed. SPLAN makes an urgent appeal to everyone to help raise the funds to get the prototype up and running. SPLAN is using a method of raising funds called crowdfunding. It has worked brilliantly internationally and the concept is just breaking into South Africa.

Crowd sourcing involves everyone contributing a little towards the project. Even if it is just $10 USD, with everyone’s contributions, the target can be reached. Thus far we have reached 35% of our goal ($10 500) and we have 13 days to go.

Please contribute online to the project in order to change the future of education in South Africa. Help the youth empower themselves. Let’s give hand ups instead of hand outs.

Ayesha Osman is a core member of the team working on the SPLAN project and is BYM Class of 2013 alumni. She can be contacted at ayesha.osman@gmail.com.