Vodacom brings renewable energy to Mt Fletcher school

MARCH 9, 2016

Vuvu Junior Secondary School in Mount Fletcher on Wednesday gained access to electricity for the first time since it opened its doors in 18 June 2004. 

What makes Vuvu different to other schools and communities is that its power won’t be drawn from the municipal power grid. Instead Vodacom will now supply renewable energy to the school and to the community through its solar-powered base station in the area.

Providing renewable energy to Vuvu follows a successful pilot project launched in Emfihlweni, Northern Kwa Zulu Natal in 2012 as well as a second project in Kisarawe, Tanzania in 2013.

The Vuvu school project consists of a 7.5kW solar array which is sufficient to power both the Vodacom base station as well as the entire school. In addition, the solar installation has led to a 60% saving on fuel normally consumed at the site and a reduction in generator run time of 3-4 hours per day.

Maya Makanjee, Chief Officer Corporate Affairs at Vodacom said: “Powering rural communities with excess energy from Vodacom’s green base station is not only a game changer for rural areas that have no access to power, but it also increases the quality of education learners receive by providing access to learning after daylight as well as access to technology and equipment only electricity can enable”.

“Critically, this type of partnership with schools and communities shows how mobile operators such as Vodacom can bridge the energy divide in communities by oversupplying base stations with renewable energy which can be diverted to critical points within the community.”

The United Nations estimates that, worldwide, about 1.2 billion people have no access to electricity and the development benefits it brings, and 1 billion more have access only to unreliable electricity networks. This lack of modern energy services stifles income-generating activities and hampers the provision of basic services such as health care and education. 

Providing rural communities with electricity is a challenge facing most developing countries, but especially sub-Saharan Africa.  While 20% of the world’s population has no access to electricity, 95% live in sub-Saharan Africa or in the poorer regions of Asia and 84% live in rural areas. According to the World Bank, 14.6% of the South African population has no access to electricity and the majority of these people live in rural areas. 

Access to electricity is a key enabler of social and economic development, so this initiative is extremely important to the community.  Without electricity, learners would perhaps never have access to computer training or the Internet, which could severely hamper their ability to progress. The project in Emfihlweni has already seen the matric pass rate improve year on year and was 75% at the end of 2015.

Vodacom is committed to using technology and its relationship with government departments, particularly the Department of Basic Education in this case, to help learners and teachers gain access to quality education and instruction. 

Vodacom has, as part of the project, established a computer centre at the school.  This includes twenty computers for learners, a laptop for a teacher, a server, a white board and projector and access to Vodacom’s zero rated educational content.

“The introduction of technology in the classroom plays an important role in helping government deliver quality education in South Africa.  Access to technology, especially for learners, also increases their ability to succeed and helps to level the playing field for both learners and teachers in rural areas.  In the case of Vuvu, we had to push the boundaries of our mobile education philosophy to include the provision of electricity.  It is truly an exciting era for the quality of education at the school,” concludes Makanjee.