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Solar powered e-school

Schoolchildren in the most cut-off parts of rural Africa are learning their lessons in hard-wearing mobile classrooms kitted out with laptops, video cameras and an electronic blackboard.

And it means for many others like them their days of sitting in a decrepit hot school building, or taking lessons in the shade under a tree, could be about to change.

Built inside a 12-metre-long shipping container, the classroom is packed with gadgets including laptops, a video camera and a 50-inch e-board to replace the traditional blackboard.

The solar–powered e-school will work in Africa’s many areas that don’t have electricity and it was unveiled in the South African capital, Johannesburg last week by electronics firm Samsung.

The mobile schools can easily be carried by lorry to isolated areas, survive extreme weather and, vitally, run where there is no electricity supply. The folding rubber solar panels can make enough energy to power the classroom's equipment for as long as nine hours a day, and for one and a half days without any sunlight at all.

"Electricity remains Africa's largest economic challenge with the level of penetration lower than 25 per cent in most rural areas,” Samsung explained.

"This lack of power isolates communities, and limits their access to education and information, both of which are key to fast-tracking a nation's development."

The ventilated classroom has enough space for 21 school children and a teacher, and is fitted with a variety of computers including solar-powered laptops and tablets. There is also an energy-efficient fridge, a file server loaded with educational content, a router, a video camera and a Wi-Fi camera, all of which communicate via 3G. This means a central base, such as the department of education, can monitor classes and send learning materials based on the curriculum directly to the pupils and teachers’ laptops.

"We have set an ambitious goal for ourselves in Africa,” said Samsung’s president and chief executive, KK Park. “We aim to positively impact five million lives by 2015."

"This can only be achieved if we invest in education to facilitate African thought-leadership and ensure we have access to a large workforce of skilled engineers in the future,” he told The Sowetan.

"The Solar Powered Internet School is a great example of this strategy."

Hayley attribution