Rwanda and South Sudan Field Report

Diing is a Bridge2Rwanda Scholar who interned for SolarSPELL. During her internship, she was a part of the school support team conducting follow-up visits to our five pilot schools, as well as, providing support to our South Sudan pilot schools. The following is an excerpt from her experience:

My craving and hunger for knowledge has always made me think of how I can best improve education in my home country—South Sudan. This desire arose from the fact that I started school in an area designated with very few classroom materials like textbooks. So, I have always thought how I could help other children get access to educational materials. Therefore, when I heard about SolarSPELL for the first time in June, when I was still in the gap year program at Bridge2Rwanda, I immediately knew that this organization was going to be the pathway to fulfillment of this desire. I was, thus, confident that with the mission of SolarSPELL: providing educational materials to resource constrained areas, I was happy that I would be able to have a deeper understanding of my country’s educational system.

Hence, while working on the SolarSPELL project and training teachers across Rwanda to best utilize resources provided by the digital library, which I did from April – June of this year, I was humbled by the excitement and expectations the teachers had about the library. Some teachers went to the extent of saying that finally they were going to be able to improve the level of their students’ knowledge. Other teachers were so happy since the digital library was not only providing resources for their students but also the teachers themselves were learning more about their own country and the world at large. These expectations only stimulated more my desire to work on creating the localized materials that are applicable to Rwanda system.

However, it was not long before I realized that there were still many challenges of dealing with resources in Rwanda and what exactly the teachers expected. I learned then that though I was in the East African region, what I had learned in my primary and high school, which were not in Rwanda, was totally different from the Rwandan system. Thus, I needed more understanding and help from my fellow interns who had better knowledge about what their country’s education system required. With this lesson in mind, I then understood the importance of involving people at the grassroots level who know exactly what their communities needed.

This is why I was grateful to also support SolarSPELL’s pilot schools in South Sudan, my home country. I was privileged to work with SolarSPELL’s partner organization Empower Kids South Sudan on how the SolarSPELL digital library can best serve those communities. For example, I collaborated with them to curate Peace content for the next version of the SolarSPELL library. Furthermore, through my network, I was able to initiate a conversation with an organization that works in primary and secondary schools in Kakuma Refugee Camp to gauge how the SolarSPELL digital library may be able to serve the community in the future.

SolarSPELL has a vision of bringing great hope to those children whose lives depend on education, since what they require are the resources they can use to expand their learning. I also believe students are going to be more passionate about increasing their knowledge because the SolarSPELL digital library will provide the opportunity to access learning materials outside of regular school hours.

Download the Full Report

SolarSPELL July 2018 Progress Report

Project Overview

Ongoing conflicts in South Sudan, coupled with extreme weather conditions and the subsequent emergencies that arose from them, have severely hindered global, regional, national, and local efforts to improve access to education for South Sudanese youth. Simultaneously, South Sudan’s internal conflicts have led to a massive out-migration of refugees fleeing into neighboring countries, drastically changing the region’s demographic composition. These internal conflicts have impeded, and in some cases, ended global commitments to improve the quality of education in South Sudan. Lack of access to a quality education among South Sudan’s youth has resulted not only in a deterioration of human resource development and skills-building across the nation, but also in the rise of political and religious extremism and violence.

The goal of introducing the SolarSPELL Digital Library to South Sudan has been to minimize these trends if possible, one school at a time, by providing much needed educational information (textbooks, videos, and an encyclopedia) through a digital library. To determine the impact that the SolarSPELL digital library could have in South Sudan, three schools were selected for piloting the technology and resources. These schools were identified in partnership with Africa Educational Trust (AET) and Empower Kids South Sudan. The goal of this pilot stage was to establish the effectiveness of the “train-the-trainer” model for each school. Then, through measurement and evaluation, the goal was to track and record meaningful use of the SolarSPELL digital library (and library lab) at each of the three pilot schools. The SolarSPELL East Africa Digital Library was created for the pilot school initiative with the joint cooperation of the ASU SolarSPELL team and the ASU Libraries.

SolarSPELL March 2018 Progress Report


The launch of Phase 2 of the East Africa SolarSPELL initiative, March evaluation, continued assessment of the needs of Biomedical Engineer Technicians, strengthened in-country partnerships, and began a fruitful internship for 10 Bridge2Rwanda scholars. During the implementation trip, the SolarSPELL team conducted Teacher Trainings at 5 pilot schools the Rwanda Education Board (REB) selected, one in each province of Rwanda. The team trained 73 teachers, school administrators, and Peace Corps Volunteers on how to use the SolarSPELL digital library. The teachers consisted of both primary and secondary teachers from a variety of subjects, such as ICT, English, Creative Arts, Math, and Science. The size of the pilot schools varied from serving a couple hundred to 3,000+ students. All the schools had electricity, but no internet or REB school server, which had prevented the schools from being able to use the One Laptop Per Child XO Laptops (OLPC) to access educational content. These OLPC laptops can now connect to the SolarSPELL digital library’s offline website, and freely access its localized educational information.

School trainings covered a detailed technology demonstration of the SolarSPELL and the OLPC laptops, navigating and exploring the library, and how to utilize the content in their teaching.

Throughout conducting the Teacher Trainings, the SolarSPELL team’s goals were continuously met. Before each Teacher Training day, the team had a pre-training site visit to the school. During this site visit, an overview of SolarSPELL would be given to the Headmaster or Headmistress, the Peace Corps Volunteer, and their teacher counterpart. In each case, the head administrators were so impressed with the SolarSPELL digital library, they would increase the number of teachers who would attend the training the following day. Furthermore, they would request for secondary teachers to also be permitted to attend, even though the target audience was primary teachers.

Nimule Model Secondary School Update

As of mid-2015, we have solarized Nimule Model Secondary School in Nimule, South Sudan. Nimule sits on the southern border with Uganda, alongside the magnificent White Nile River, Lights now light-up each classroom for nearly 350 boys and girls during the class-day. One of the next possibilities: open-up the classrooms at night for the adults, in an effort to begin bringing them along as well.

Also, we are exploring the broadband options for Nimule with the goal of having 15 new computers in the new Computer Lab at Nimule Model Secondary School operational by the end of 2015. At the same time, we are currently discussing with ASU the requirements that must be in place in order to proceed to connect SkySong with Nimule Model Secondary School. Two of the ASU Fellows teach at this school.

Solar Power for Schools in South Sudan

When we began thinking about ways to offer assistance in South Sudan, the list was enormous. In fact, over-whelming. Where do you begin in a place that has only recently concluded a 20+ year civil war and then become the newest country in the world?

Early on, when we learned that—within the borders of the entire country of South Sudan—there is no power grid whatsoever, we were stopped dead in our tracks. No power grid in the entire country?

The reality was this: while South Sudan was a part of what was then known as Sudan, the government in Khartoum neglected—on purpose—to make any investments for infrastructure in the South. That included such things as a power grid.

As a result, today you either must have the funds to own a very expensive dieselpowered generator or you are stuck with a kerosene lamp. Take your pick. That’s essentially it. And, diesel fuel in South Sudan exceeds $7 US/gallon.

With that new knowledge, we began asking about the feasibility of installing solar energy systems atop schools, in an effort to bring basic lighting into the classrooms. However, as the conversation expanded. we realized that—with solar power and battery backup—we could also contemplate something else: computers. Assuming that broadband internet exists, and having power at a school, the potential to connect any school in South Sudan with SkySong—Arizona State University’s distance learning platform—would allow us to bring that school into the 21st century. And, do away with their books from the 1940’s and 1950’s.

In a nutshell, what you have just-now read is the essence of this portion of our focus in South Sudan.