Making school an electrifying experience

Making school an electrifying experience

"Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world." This quotation, by Nelson Mandela, contains a great deal of wisdom, but also sheds light on a major dilemma within South African society. Attending a normal state school in South Africa costs around 500 euro per quarter. Private institutions charge astronomical amounts, up to 10,000 euro. The few free schools are spread far apart over rural districts and are often hard to reach. Children from poorer families in particular cover long distances on foot on the way to school and back, returning home only as the sun sets. By then, it is often already too dark to do homework or study. Electric light is a rare luxury in these simple accommodations. These extremely poor conditions for a better education were a call to arms for one young South African, however.

Thato Kgatlhanye had only just turned eighteen, when she had a revolutionary idea in 2012. She understood the problems that students faced, as well as the problem of the constantly growing garbage dumps in her country. Why, she thought, can't we combat both problems together at the same time? She began to manufacture school satchels out of used plastic bags. The bags were collected, cleaned, cut to size and stitched together. This new method of recycling waste while creating a valuable new use was a step in the right direction, but it did not go far enough for Thato. The problem of a lack of light during the evening remained. Then she had, quite literally, a light-bulb moment: she connected the clasp of the school bag to a solar panel that would store the sun's energy during the day, while serving as a power source for a small lamp in the evening. Children could use their satchels to store enough energy on the way to and from school to have enough light to study in the evening. Thato founded a startup and gave her newly-developed product the appropriate name of "Repurposed Schoolbags."

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Published : 12/17/2015 07:46:00