Twenty-four teachers and community representatives of the five Choiseul primary schools that will receive solar power supplies have received training in the management and monitoring of solar power systems.
The 4-day workshop was jointly designed and delivered by the project contractors Leeming Consulting and Willies Solar and Electrical Company, and was held at the Provincial Hall, Taro, between 29th Sept and 2nd Oct 2014. The Choiseul Province Education Officer and MEHRD Project Officer also attended and jointly assisted in the running of the workshop.
The trainees are teachers and community “champions” who have been selected by the schools through their boards to provide a level of technical support and monitoring on site, and to advise management committees established by the schools for oversight of the facilities. The training was designed to equip the trainees with basic knowledge, skills and attitudes that are needed to ensure the facilities are used optimally and appropriately, to extend educational opportunities that benefit the students, teachers and community.
A key innovation in this workshop was to define the groups from each school as Solar Support Teams, comprising four roles: Administrator, Technician, Productive Uses of Renewable Energy (PURE) Officer, and Community Champion.
An MOU defining the ownership, management agreement, roles and responsibilities, was agreed and signed by all schools and the education authority during the workshop.
Over the four days, the trainees learned the basics of electrical and solar power in theory and practice, discussed productive uses of solar power, how to monitor the solar power systems, and how to decide on the appliances and usage patterns that are suitable. A day trip was made to Choiseul Bay school for familiarity with a similar solar installation. The Education Advisor, Choiseul Province, gave a session on school policy and how to integrate the solar policies that each school has started to develop.
The workshop was opened by Henson Makoani, Director of the Asset Management Division, MEHRD and Abel Likaveke, for UNICEF, and closed by the Premier, Choiseul Province. Certificates were awarded to the trainees. They now return to their schools and communities, and will receive further training during the installation of the facilities in October.
Training Evaluation summary
This training brought groups of participants from each school together with the project partners and contractors. This kind of training is very effective for team building. From the feedback received, participants did go away with a good sense of their roles and responsibilities, and imagining themselves as members of a community of sustainable solar pioneers for both the education system and Choiseul Province. This aspect of community needs to be nurtured by the partners. For instance, education officials should be briefed on the project when visiting schools and can meet with and discuss the project during school visits. As the installations are rolled out and lessons begin to be learned, we should share those stories and good ideas (for instance with PURE). Regular communications should be made with the schools to update them.
This kind of centralised training (i.e. out of context) is less effective with regard to the specialised technical skills required to maintain the solar. Although they are not very extensive, those skills need to be well embedded so that the teams can carry out routine tasks with confidence and to be empowered by the information the technology gives them. Additional technical training will be given by contractors during installation, reinforced during the two scheduled post-installation visits. However, a continuous element of mentoring would also be advantageous. Partners should discuss any opportunity for more on-site training inputs.
Phase 2 has now started with an initial visit between June 5-12th to the five Choiseul primary schools: St Johns Moli, Mboe, Panarui, Konamana and Pangoe. The team consisted of the contractors, UNICEF representative and MEHRD Project Officer. We inspected the school buildings and found them all suitable for the project. Meetings were held with the school teachers and any available community representatives to brief them and explain the schedule. Needless to say, they were all delighted to see the much needed project underway!
Some pictures of the five schools’ classroom blocks where the solar power will be installed below:
Above: Moli PS
Above: Pangoe PS
Above: Panarui PS
Above: Mboe PS
Above: Konamana PS
Meeting with Konamana teachers.
Site survey team at Panarui, with a teacher (r)
Meeting teachers at Moli
Staff houses at Mboe
Sunday afternoon, Panarui village
View of Pangoe bay from the canoe
Another scenic view from Taro, Choiseul Province
The team has completed on-site training in monitoring and backup system this week. Teachers, community champions and the solar management committee were trained to monitor the solar power supplies, conduct periodic inspections and how to report faults. Additionally, a simple method was introduced to monitor educational impacts and activities supported by the solar power.
The last two schools to receive the training were Rate and Betivatu Primary Schools, on Thursday 31st October and Friday 1st November.
Teachers reported many early benefits from the solar power. Neither school has had a reliable generator and so the reliable solar power and lighting has made big difference, especially with examinations coming up. Both schools reported daily evening classes for exam years, with some students who live too far to walk in the evening, boarding in the classrooms so that they can study.
Both schools are keen to use ICTs and are developing ICT plans and proposals. The team provided open educational resources from sources such as UNESCO and teachers are planning to use them in their classes as “multimedia supplementary resources”. At Rate they have been using educational videos in lessons.
The team visited Aruligo today, Wednesday 30th October, to conduct the training in the monitoring and backup system.
A session was held to explore how the school has been benefiting from the solar power already. Teachers reported that evening study has become a part of the daily programme.
For instance, the grade 6 (exam year) students have been studying in the evenings on a daily basis. This is unusual for a non-boarding primary school, and the teachers confirmed that most or all of the grade 6 students had been attending the evening studies. Lower grades, mainly 4 and 5, were also attending evening study but mostly those who live nearby. The extended use of the classrooms with availability of power is also attracting high school students and tertiary students, including those studying with USP, SINU and UPNG.
Teachers have also started innovating with ICTs in the classroom, for example presenting to students multimedia resources for social science and science. The school has prioritized the procurement of a projector. The team was able to provide a collection of open educational multimedia resources from UNESCO, regional organisations and other sources.
The solar power is also supporting teacher professional development. Most of the teachers at Aruligo are studying distance learning courses to advance their qualifications. The simple provision of reliable lighting in the evenings has made a big difference. One reason for this is that afternoons are often needed for chores such as collecting water during dry periods when rain tanks are empty.
The community has also used the solar power – church and PTA meetings are now convening in the classrooms in the evening.
During the recent training held at Tenakoga and Titinge, teachers and members of the management committees and students were able to report some improvements that the solar power has brought already to the schools and communities.
At both schools, exam year students (Grade 6) have been using the classrooms for evening studies on a regular, almost daily basis. Furthermore, Form 3 and 5 secondary students from the neighborhood have also benefited with the opportunity to use the classrooms to study before their upcoming examinations.
At Titinge, a women’s livlihoods and economic development group has been using the school for meetings and training sessions. At Tenakoga, a Church group was able to work on their programmes. Thus, there are strong signs of positive benefits feeding to the local communities improving their engagement with the schools.
Miriam, a student at Tenakoga, gave a welcoming speech to the training team to share the students’ impressions of the new facilities:
“On behalf of Tenakoga Primary staff and students I am honoured to welcome you to our school.
Our school is so very old, because it started in 1948. However, when we received the first beam of the solar light, it changes the whole outlook of the environment and the mindset of people. Tenakoga is like a town in the jungle of Guadalcanal. Everyone will agree with me that the solar for school project is our school’s pride.Thankyou UNICEF and NZAid for the generous donation. Without your enourmous support, solar light will be a dream that never comes true.”
At both schools the teachers are keen to develop ICT skills and resources and at Tenakoga, the teachers have already been organising in-service computer training using their one PC computer donated by students from the area who are studying in Fiji, with other friends of the community The nearby secondary school has also benefited by using the power to create and print graduation certificates and produce video clips of students graduating. The school is in a quite remote rural location and without the availability of the facility this might not have been possible.
Likewise, when an Officer from their Adventist Education Authority visited the area recently, he was able to stop over at the school to work on the education programme, benefiting from the availability of power for his laptop and evening lighting, and did not need to return to Honiara, thus saving valuable time better spent working with the teachers.
A successful training session was held today, Tuesday 29th October, at Tenakoga school. Teachers, community champions and the solar management committee were trained to monitor the solar power supplies, conduct periodic inspections and how to report faults. Additionally, a simple method was introduced to record how the solar power is improving the environment for teaching and learning – educational impacts and activities supported by the solar power.
With the solar installation complete, training in monitoring the solar power was conducted today, 28th October, at Titinge Primary School by the contractors. The on-going project will monitor the performance of the solar power and the educational impacts. The monitoring process will be coordinated through the Ministry of Education and supported by a company contracted to provide backup services.
The management committee, teachers and community champions were trained to use a simple reporting format to record daily solar observations, periodic inspections and what to do if any faults were detected. Additionally, staff will record educational uses of the solar power.
An app has been developed that allows schools in rural areas to report performance monitoring data from the solar power systems via SMS from Android phones. This is a facility that would benefit schools that have mobile coverage (any network) but there is no data coverage, or when the school has limited ability to access the Internet for other reasons.
Project contractor David Leeming explained, “The second component of the system is a free SMS gateway that relays the structured text message with the data to an online database server. Anyone interested in the data can log on and view it. Once the data is in such a database, it is possible to manipulate it in any way that is required, for instance to display reports for specific parameters at each schools in graphical format. In this case, to demonstrate the concept we are using a free service called Magpi.”
“This is perhaps something for the future as we still need to ensure monitoring and backup support is as practicable and simple as possible. But, for instance, such methods would certainly help if the project is scaled up to a large number of sites”.