development energy media

Lockdown homeschooling with a solar TV

91% of the world’s schoolchildren and students have been affected by school closures because of the coronavirus, according to UNESCO. The wave of closures moved from China to Europe, and by the end of March schools were calling an early start to the holidays across Africa and Latin America. Classroom time has paused across the world, but education has not.

There are different ways to fill the gap. My own children have homework set through online platforms, and we are supplementing it with projects of our own and video lessons with other parents. (Although it’s officially the holidays, my wife will be attempting a drama lesson over Zoom in an hour, which I am curious to witness.)

In Kenya, the government has turned to radio and TV to provide lessons, stepping up the programming that is already widely used in rural areas. The government runs its own educational TV Channel, and this will carry eight hours of lessons a day, including health, nutrition and advice on dealing with the virus. Publishers have released textbooks digitally, and telecoms companies have made them free to access and download. Many of Kenya’s 15 million school children should be able to access what they need, but it does raise some difficult questions for those without internet connectivity, or without electricity.

Families without a grid connection will only have limited access to this educational programming. Children’s education could suffer along the existing faultlines of rich and poor, urban and rural.

As I’ve described before, small scale solar can provide electricity without a grid connection, and at far more affordable prices. Bangladesh has been the world leader on this front. There are many companies that offer small scale solar in Kenya, but one has a particularly relevant niche right now: Azuri and their solar satellite TV.

Azuri Tech (disclaimer: I have a small investment) provide solar power to households with no other access to electricity, and the small scale systems are available on a payment plan to keep them affordable. One of the more unusual options is the solar TV bundle. This includes the solar panel, lighting, and a rechargeable radio and torch – and a highly efficient LED television. The package comes with AzuriTV, a bundle of over 60 satellite channels, one of which is the government’s education channel.

With abundant energy and more channels than we could ever possibly take an interest in, it is hard to imagine how tranformative an investment like this could be. A clean source of light, the ability to charge a phone, and access to radio and television represent a serious step forward for a household. And at a time when children are unable to go to school, solar TVs have suddenly taken on a new importance.

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