Evaluation of solar-powered computer use by educators at Myeka High School, rural KwaZulu-Natal.
The potential of solar systems to generate electricity to power computers in rural schools has been realised in areas where grid electricity is inaccessible. While donors may willingly donate computers to rural schools, the extent of their use is questionable. The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which Myeka High School educators used solar-powered computers and to determine factors affecting computer use. Myeka High School is located in the rural KwaZulu-Natal midlands, in the Ndwedwe district. It is characterised by a lack of grid electricity and basic infrastructure. Through private funding this school was provided with 20 solar-powered computers. A combination of survey questionnaires, observations, informal interviews and focus group discussions was used to collect data from 25 school staff, after computer training and Internet Explorer program access at the school. Data collected included educators' computer skills level, type of software used, time spent using computers and factors affecting computer use at the school. Survey results showed that the majority of educators were computer literate and used word processing more frequently than other software programs, but spent a relatively short duration of time using computers. The computers' capacity to enhance educators' tasks was the main motivation for them to use computers. However, low human capacity, high computer maintenance costs and poor physical infrastructure constrained educators' computer use. Recommendations are that interventions aimed at promoting computer use by rural educators should first develop human capacity and improve the infrastructure for using and maintaining computers. Implications for further research are to get learners' perspectives on computer use and to conduct a comparative study between Solar-powered computer and grid electricity-powered computers in schools, to further understand factors limiting computer use.