Peatmoor Primary School and Red Oaks Primary together have raised £1,000 for a solar powered lighting system supplied by Cricklade-based charity Lights for Learning to be installed in Paramente School, Lesotho, in a project that demonstrates how international links between schools and communities can transform lives and opportunities.
Both Swindon schools have been connected to Dihlabeng School in South Africa for the last ten years, nurturing an educational relationship that has complemented the global curriculum on offer at Red Oaks and Peatmoor. Through this relationship, the head of Dihlabeng, Margaret Grant, suggested they might work together to help Paramente School, across the border in Lesotho, one of whose teachers, Jo West, originates from Swindon. She and her husband Pete are supported by the Gateway Church in Westlea.
The money raised will bring light to the school hall and a combined classroom library using four solar panels charging two car batteries to feed 24 LED lights. It will also fund a portable briefcase sized kit which Lights for Learning founder Roger Mugridge designed so that doctors and midwives can undertake emergency deliveries at night.
This system is a huge improvement on the dangerous open flame kerosene lamps that families often rely on to light their homes after dark.
Pictured, right, Roger Mugeridge with the Red Oaks eco club and teachers Maggie Hartridge and Melanie Brough
The solar panels, wiring and lights all fit into a suitcase and will be delivered to Lesotho in February by Mike Derry, a member of the Gateway Church congregation. Whilst there, Mike will be able to train local people how to install the kit and wire it up to locally sourced batteries.
Pupil Dominic Stroud said: “The lighting system is so amazing and simple. The bulbs are so tiny and bright but they don’t get hot at all. The solar lights will do a lot for the children in Lesotho because they’ll be able to learn in the evening.”
Red Oaks raised money through a blue, green and white non-uniform day earlier this year when children donned the colours of Lesotho. This event supplemented funds raised in 2010 through a quiz and toy sale.
Red Oaks charity club coordinator Maggie Hartridge said: “Working towards helping children in another country over a period of 18 months has been a great experience. The children have learnt so much and have come up with lots of ideas.”
Part-time teacher at Peatmoor Melanie Brough recently visited Paramente and brought back video footage of her trip. “It’s fantastic how Peatmoor, Red Oaks, Dihlabeng and Gateway Church are all working together,” she said.
Having seen the video, pupil Rowan Maddock said, “It was shocking to see how different it is from here. I think we take our school for granted.”
Lights for Learning inventor Roger Mugridge is impressed by the schools’ effort. “It’s great how the youngsters are so committed to giving children in Africa the chance to learn when the sun goes down.”
In September 2010 the charity’s team of volunteers embarked on a project to install lights across 344 schools in Zimbabwe, attracting the attention of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Having just returned from a second three week trip to Zimbabwe where L4L volunteers fitted lights into another eight isolated rural schools, two clinics and an adults’ skills training centre, Roger said: “We again had a fantastic reception from the government there. They supplied a truck, mini-bus and a 4 x 4 to help us move the volunteers and our equipment between locations.”
The charity has recently had enquiries from schools and government departments in India, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Meanwhile Roger is developing new solar powered products, and is most excited about bringing computing to the poorest people, using a portable battery system fitted with an inverter to produce a stable 240v electricity supply. “This would keep 6 laptop computers going for a day,” he said.
Children and their teacher at Paramente School, Lesotho in front of the building which will soon have solar panels attached to it