Solar-Powered Backpacks Provide Light To South African Schoolchildren In Need

PicturePhoto Credit: Repurposeschoolbags.comSolar-powered backpacks are nothing new to the consumer marketplace. They’ve provided many of us with a convenient way to charge our portable devices on-the-go. However, one company sees a much more impactful use for them that is helping South African children in need.Rethaka, a South African-based company, is providing a way for low income schoolchildren to generate light using solar power technology. The backpack charges during the day while a child walks to and from school and provides them with a portable light to study with at night. 

In low income communities, many South African children lack access to reliable sources of electricity, forcing them to do homework in the dark or use kerosene lamps that produce health hazardous fumes. Rethaka says, “We believe that children should worry about calculating maths sums not the cost of purchasing kerosene and candles.”

Along with unstable conditions at home, these children often have to walk several miles to school every day. Rethaka’s solution is to harness solar power as a way to solve the aforementioned problems. The bag contains a detachable light that can be screwed onto a common glass jar and easily transported. The company claims the backpack can generate up to 12 hours of light when considering the amount of time these children spend walking to school everyday.PicturePhoto Credit: Repurposeschoolbags.comAccording to the parliament of South Africa, “11.4 million South African learners walk to school daily,” and approximately three of these children die on their roadways each day. To combat this statistic, each bag includes retro-reflective strips with the hopes that this simple addition will help save lives in the future.

Additionally, Rethaka created the bags using a sustainable and environmentally-friendly material made from recycled plastic bags that is waterproof. 

The company explains the decision-making process on how they select and distribute their bags to disadvantaged schools:

  • We identify disadvantaged schools with children who lack basic school supplies and walk long distances to school.
  • We Invite “Giving Partners” to purchase or give donations towards Repurpose Schoolbags on behalf of learners.
  • We then match a Giving Partner to a disadvantaged school and communicate the match with both.
  • We organise a themed handover event at the disadvantaged school and deliver the Repurpose schoolbags. Pictures and videos of the day’s happenings are taken.
  • We assess the impact of our business through feedback from the  disadvantaged schools.

One thing to note is that the company is a for-profit business and not a charity. However, they define themselves as “a purpose-driven business that does what is right, not what is easy.”PicturePhoto Credit: Repurposeschoolbags.com

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