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.