May 26, 2008, 9:08 PM — Plans are set to install the first computer center powered by solar energy in Sierra Leone.
The beneficiary, the Prince Of Wales (POW) Secondary School, is located less than a third of a mile from Kingtom Power Station, a major Freetown electricity distribution center, but has no power.
The Prince Of Wales Alumni Association (POWAA) branch in the U.S. state of Georgia has proposed to provide the center with new desktop and laptop computers, a solar-power system and high-speed satellite Internet access which is the only broadband option -- for their school. The estimated total capital cost of the project is between $60,000 and $70,000.
The government-owned school was officially inaugurated by the prince of Wales in 1925, and chartered to foster science education and studies in modern languages. The POWAA in Georgia was founded in 2002 by former POW students residing in the U.S.
The alumni also plan to extend Wi-Fi capability so that students and teachers who already have their own laptops can access the Internet without going to the computer center.
The solar power basics will comprise photovoltaic (PV) panels, batteries, three charge controllers, inverters, meter and breakers. The system will require about 30 solar panels to produce a total wattage of between 5 kilowatts and 6kw.
According to POWAA President Samuel O. Atere-Roberts, the solar equipment including panels and other accessories was procured from African Energy in Arizona. Atere-Roberts said that there have been delays in shipping the equipment to the U.S., due to fluctuating costs, and that installation of the center depends on when the equipment will arrive in Freetown.
POW school principal Millicent Ogoo confirmed the plans, and said that the school is expecting laptops next week.
"Weve been getting support from organizations but this is the first time well be getting a solar power system. We are also expecting 20 laptops next week. We are very proud of the project. They have really done well. It also shows that they have concern for the school," she said.
A contract for securing the classroom that will host the new computer center has been awarded to Sky Construction in Freetown and work has started in earnest, Atere-Roberts said. He charged more donors to join the project and change history in Sierra Leone as they follow the footsteps of Myeka High School in South Africa. In 2000, Myeka overcame many logistical problems courtesy of a similar project. Pass rates at Myeka school reportedly increased from 55 percent to 69 percent.