January 30th will see the launch of the first Dell Solar Lab in Kensington in the Western Cape. This follows the success of the solar powered mobile classroom which Dell launched in Nigeria in July 2013, a concept aimed at providing increased opportunities for learning to students with little or no access to technology or the Internet.
The Dell Solar Lab will be launched in collaboration with the Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO), at their largest and oldest centre in Kensington, where it is strategically positioned to be of service to children from the underserved communities of Manenberg, Khayelitsha and the surrounding Kensington area. Over 300 students and 150 SHAWCO community members will have free access and be able to enjoy the benefits of the innovative solar lab.
The solar lab concept, which comprises a standard shipping container that is converted into a mobile computer classroom, was designed to harness the power from the sun and to provide internet connectivity for students in underprivileged communities. “In this way, the solar lab will help raise awareness of the outside world among students and enhance their learning to create career opportunities in the long term”, says Stewart van Graan, General Manager, Dell Southern and Central Africa.
The lab is equipped with an innovative-shared computing solution from Dell Wyse which will open up new teaching possibilities and the personal development of students through enhanced training and education.
“SHAWCO has been a Dell ‘Powering the Possible’ partner for four years and with their excellent service, knowledge and relationship with communities through their welfare, development and education programmes, it made sense not only to place the lab at their Kensington centre, but to also collaborate with them to ensure that communities take full advantage of the benefits of this advanced technological structure within their midst”, comments Stewart.
SHAWCO started off as a one-man initiative and quickly grew into one of the country’s largest student volunteer organisations which ran health and welfare projects throughout South Africa. In 1994 the organisation moved from welfare to a development model – still running primary health care clinics, but moving to skills development and education programmes through the “welfare” arm. In 2003, this move was further consolidated by the narrowing of the developmental sector to Youth Education.
SHAWCO Finance Manager, Debra Lodder, who coordinated the implantation of the Dell Solar Lab commented on the launch and partnership, “SHAWCO is grateful for the immense support that Dell has given us over the last four years. It has been an absolute pleasure dealing with the staff at Dell. Coordinating this new project has been a huge learning experience and we are looking forward to getting the lab up and running”.