To'abaita Authority for Research & Development (TARD)

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Distance Learning Centres to bring huge benefit to rural areas in Solomon Islands

By George Siapu

Minister of Education, Dr. Derek Sikua on Wednesday received $2.2 million worth of solar power and IT equipment for the nine Distance Learning Centres from the European Union’s Charge de Affaires, Henry Prankerd at a hand over ceremony in the Education Office in Honiara.

In accepting the equipment, Dr. Sikua said that although the main intended application in these Distance Learning Centres would be for education, the multipurpose nature of the centres would expand this possibility to the health sector, agriculture, fisheries, forestry and other areas.

“It has the potential to unlock the economic potential in the rural areas that can only be talked about now,” he added.

Dr. Sikua said that the establishment of Distance Learning Centres in the provinces would certainly revolutionize the delivery of education to remote parts of the country where currently this capability does not exist.

The Education Minister explained that these centres are equipped with broadband Internet using VSAT technology. “VSAT refers to small satellite ground stations connecting remote sites to a wide area network, adding that: “These VSAT units have facilities for Internet, video, audio, and even land line phones and faxes where permissible,”

“So they bring to any rural school and surrounding community the full spectrum of tools for communication and access to distance learning,” Dr. Sikua said.

He said the important responsibility now is how to better utilize these equipment at the centres for the delivery of education services and training for the people in the rural areas.

The hand over of the equipment now paves the way for the other remaining eight centres to be operational soon thus joining the first centre at St. Stephen School in Makira that has been operational and online since September 2006.

The $2.2 million assistance by the European Union had catered for the acquisition of 88 solar panels(10 kilo-watts), 96 deep-cycle gel solar batteries, 8 quality sine-wave inverters, 8 sets digital solar controllers with peripherals, 8 battery chargers, 8 sets solar panel mounting frames and other miscellaneous items including cables, fuses and lights.

The other major component of equipment supplied includes 65 Toshiba A8 laptops, 65 advanced port replicators, 65 external keyboards and optical mice, 9 dot matrix printers, 18 laser printers and 9 scanners.

The Distance Learning Centre Project is implemented and managed by the Rural Development Volunteers Association’s People First Network and the Ministry of Education respectively.

The Distance Learning Centre Project will now be deploying the equipment to rural centres.

“I am told that in the following few weeks, centres at Guguha in Isabel, Vuranimala in Central Province, Bekabeka in Western Province, Arnon Atomea in North Malaita and Avuavu on the Guadalcanal Weathercoast will be made fully operational,” Dr. Sikua said.

Meanwhile, the other three remaining sites at Henua in Rennell, Kati in Temotu and Sasamunga in Choiseul would be completed a little later.

Source: GCU

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