Samsung launches solar powered internet classroom in a shipping container
Submitted by: Tholakele Nene, Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Students from Phomolong Secondary School, outside Tembisa Township in Johannesburg, have become beneficiaries of the Samsung solar powered Internet classroom. Phomolong which previously did not have a computer lab will now have full access to multiple solar powered technologies designed to help bridge the gap between education and connectivity.
The solar powered internet classroom is built in a 12 metre, renovated shipping container, to make it easy to move to places that need it. The classroom is specifically designed for use in rural areas or in poor communities with low levels of electrification.
The container is fitted with fold away solar panels that exclusively power the equipment inside the classroom. Excess electricity is stored away in batteries and used on cloudy days. The amount of energy generated allows for uninterrupted supply to the internet classroom during the day, as well as in the afternoon when the container becomes a community centre says Michelle Potgieter Director of Corporate Marketing and Communications at Samsung.
Potgieter says that the decision to use a shipping container addresses a number of constraints, such as space, electricity supply and fast roll out time.
Introduced as part of Samsung’s social corporate investment initiative, the internet classroom is equipped with an Electronic-board and different Samsung Notebooks, optimized for use in a solar powered environment.
Furthermore, the classroom’s computer server contains the South African school curriculum spanning from grade 0-12, allowing the school to teach any subject or grade, using the available technology.
The classroom is also equipped with LED lighting, an energy- efficient refrigerator and a video camera which are designed to use 3G. This allows a central location (such as the Department of Education) to monitor classes and deliver curriculum-based content directly to both the learners’ and educators’ notebooks.
The classroom is designed to accommodate 24 students at a time. Used on a rotational basis, it can benefit many students in a single day, says Potgieter.
Talking about why Samsung chose Phomolong as a beneficiary, Potgieter says the school was handpicked because it fit the criteria for eligibility to receive an internet classroom. Some of the criteria included a look at existing infrastructure, level of access to services and the potential the classroom can deliver. Phomolong had poor infrastructure and limited access to services. However, despite these setbacks the students showed great potential to overcome their challenges. The students had a strong sense of leadership, evident in the school’s yearly matric pass rate, growing from 65 percent to 97 percent in just two years. “We know this investment will have a positive effect. Technology has a great impact on schools, and when coupled with great leadership it can go a long way to improving learning conditions for both students and teachers,” says Potgieter.
The initiative has yielded great results and changed the lives of many people in the community. According to Samsung, Phomolong school Principal Mocheke Thoka has hailed the initiative for its work at the school; saying that there has been a noticeable improvement in students’ academic performance, since the classroom arrived.
Although the initiative is successful and has greatly improved the lives of the students and the community, it does not go without its fair share of challenges. Some of which included, educating the community on the classroom and the equipment. Samsung’s solution to this was to bring together the whole community, educate them and instil a sense of ownership and pride in them, so that they could maintain the equipment for a long time.
“Educating the community with regards to the solution was initially a challenge for us. We decided to take a consultative approach when supplying the solution to the community, making sure that community elders and various NGO partners are on board from the very beginning. Our hope is for the society to take ownership of this initiative and for the citizens to harness it to its fullest; advancing not only learners but individuals who are looking to up skill themselves. The real return on Samsung’s investment is when we see communities flourishing from the technology we present to them,” says Potgieter.
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