Maendeleo Foundation’s Solar Classrooms Light Up African Education


For Asia Kamukama, innovation means a four-by-four with solar panels strapped to the roof, the boot containing all the equipment needed for a fully-functional ICT classroom. She is Executive Director of the Maendeleo Foundation, an organisation that makes computers available in areas of Uganda where there is no electricity or broadband Internet.

While infrastructure in the equatorial region is underdeveloped, it does have a key advantage: plentiful, reliable sunlight. Mobile solar classrooms, an ever more common sight trundling along the potholed roads of rural Africa, show that the creative use of an abundant resource can overcome disadvantages.

In this way the Maendeleo Foundation has reached 37,000 people in East Africa – 80% students, but also teachers and out-of-school groups: youth, women, farmers and local business people.

For Asia Kamukama, the solar school is not a stop-gap solution, but a complement to the education system and a vital technology for future sustainable development across Africa. She believes it is now the task of governments to carry on her work. In her opinion: “Solar schemes, if subsidised and promoted across Africa, offer affordable power solutions to all income brackets.”

One place where innovators and policy makers come together, to make their voices heard and work together for change, is the eLearning Africa Conference. Taking place in Kampala, Uganda, from 28 – 30 May this year, its programme, now online, unites developers, researchers, technologists and teachers from across the Continent under a common theme.

This year’s edition, “Opening Frontiers to the Future”, is set to highlight the many ways in which innovations in education, such as the solar classrooms, are helping to realise Africa’s potential.

Keynote speakers including leading entrepreneur Rebecca Enonchong and Bitange Ndemo, senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi and former Permanent Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communication, will present expert commentary, success stories and incisive critiques of Africa’s eLearning scene. Giving key insight from some of the most influential companies in the eLearning sector will be: Noah Samara, Chairman and CEO of Yazmi; Jochen Polster, Vice President EMEA, NComputing; Mark East, General Manager Microsoft EMEA and ASIA Education Industry Group; and Bright Simons, writer, researcher, social entrepreneur and President of pioneering eHealth network mPedigree.

Over 60 parallel sessions will highlight the staggering diversity of technology and education that is transforming education in Africa. In addition, on the 28th, a varied selection of workshops will give participants the opportunity to learn hands-on skills for blogging, digital video authorship and digital entrepreneurship.

A diverse mix of grassroots practitioners, governmental representatives, academic researchers and teachers, business leaders and innovators, this Conference will be an opportunity for all to learn, share and inspire each other to work towards the fulfilment of Africa’s potential.