The KwaZulu Natal Department of Education is implementing a solar panel rollout for schools within the province that do not have electricity, in order to allow them to access its new electronic administration system for the capturing and centralisation of information including learner data, financial information, asset management details and curricula.
The solar system rollout is being done with the aid of IT systems, software, hardware and consulting services provider, Datacentrix.
According to Amanda Ngcobo, senior account manager at Datacentrix, the department has historically struggled with budget for information and communications technology (ICT), leaving it with backlog that still needs to be addressed.
"Since 2004, the department has been working on an initiative to ensure that infrastructure, which includes connectivity and computers, is provided to all schools by 2013. This policy also covers the professional development of educators and development of digital content within this timeframe – not an easy task considering that more than 1 500 schools within the region are without power and will not be electrified in the near future.
"The department did not want these institutions to be further disadvantaged and had to seek another alternative. Based on this mandate, it was decided that the most effective solution would be to use a secure, portable solar system that could be used to recharge the batteries of the laptop computers that would also be provided by the department," she explains.
The department kicked off with an initial pilot project last year which saw the solar system being implemented at 500 schools, to be rolled out to around 1 800 in time, says Dr Bhekisisa Mthabela, head: EMIS unit at the KwaZulu Natal Department of Education.
"Despite some initial challenges such as delays for updated software for the laptops and a steep learning curve for users, the machines deployed have seen great success in successfully linking the schools into the administration system."