With the rise of the paperless classroom, information technology is evolving much faster than many schools can adapt, compelling many organisations to use collaborative solutions to address the challenge of access to quality education.

Samsung Electronics South Africa is one such organisation that has invested in educational initiatives to benefit South African schools. “We believe that for our business to succeed, we need to foster change in the communities in which we operate. This is achieved by connecting our technology with the right partners and through investing in education to empower teachers and learners,” says Pitso Kekane, Head of Corporate Citizenship at Samsung Electronics SA.

The power of technology

Samsung introduced the Solar Powered Internet School (SPIS) in 2002 as part of its Hope for Children initiative. The objective of this smart innovation is to bridge the technology gap in previously disadvantaged communities and is further aligned with the company’s 2015 vision to directly impact the lives of 5-million Africans through the power of technology.

The SPIS is built in a 12-metre renovated shipping container that can accommodate up to 24 pupils and is fitted with solar panels that power the equipment inside the classroom. Furthermore, it is equipped with a 65-inch large format display screen, a teacher’s laptop, Samsung notebooks, a printer and fans to cool the container. The SPIS is transported by truck to remote areas, providing classrooms specifically designed for areas with limited or no access to electricity.

The decision to use a shipping container addresses a number of constraints, such as space, electricity supply and deployment. Samsung collaborates with the local traditional council and educational institutions to deliver on the implementation of the SPIS projects. The process of identifying beneficiaries involves research and systematic consultation with community leaders. Some of the criteria include a look at existing infrastructure, the level of access to services and the potential the classroom can deliver.

The classroom’s computer server contains educational content that covers the entire basic education syllabus, allowing the facilitator to teach any subject or grade, using the available content. The classroom is equipped with energy efficient LED lighting and an IP camera which is designed to use 3G connectivity, allowing for remote monitoring of the classroom.

In order to create a sense of pride and ownership in the community, Samsung engages parents and community members and provides them with basic skills on the functionality of this technology and its importance in the growth and development of the community at large.

“This solution is a holistic approach aimed at fast-tracking the country’s educational development and ensuring that the youth can participate on a global scale by exposing them to today’s innovative technology”, concludes Kekane.