Twenty teachers and community representatives of five Guadalcanal primary schools have received training in the management and monitoring of solar power systems. Solar power is to be installed at the schools under a project of the Ministry of Education partnering with UNICEF and funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The 3-day workshop was jointly designed and delivered by the project contractors Leeming Consulting and Willies Solar and Electrical Company, and was held at Willies’ SITAFE training facility in Honiara between 2nd and 4th September.
The project aims to improve the learning environment for rural primary schools through the provision of solar power, lighting and fans for classrooms and staff houses and the implementation of a monitoring and backup system supported by the Ministry.
The trainees are teachers and community “champions” who have been selected by the schools through their parent teacher associations 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 five primary schools are Titinge, Aruligo, Betivatu, Rate and Tenakoga. They were selected by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with UNICEF’s Solomon Islands Field Office . Each school will receive 4kW of solar power suitable for not only lighting but computers and printers and appliances to be used for productive purposes such as sewing machines.
In a second phase early next year, the project will be extended to include five Choiseul schools.
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.
Over the three days, the trainees learned the basics of electrical and solar power in theory and practice, 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. They also worked on school/community agreements to be signed with their education authorities. These ensure that the facilities are well supervised and each partner understands their responsibilities. School policies were also drafted for security, access, extra-curricular use, energy conservation and safety. As the plan is to coordinate with other joint programmes of UNICEF and the Ministry, a session was held to identify ways that water and sanitation (WASH) could be integrated in the arrangements for managing the solar power.
The workshop was opened and closed by Henson Makoani, Director of the Infrastructure Unit, MEHRD and 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 September and October.
More information can be found in a social media website www.solar4schools.org.sb that has been established to chronicle the project. It will also be used to capture stories about the impacts of the solar power and to build a supportive community.