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Solar installation lights up the school in Rama Cay

By Chris Sparadeo -- More than any other populace in Nicaragua, the indigenous peoples of the Atlantic Coast suffer from low levels of education and pedagogy. The need to provide indigenous youth with a local, quality education is evident and for the past three years the Belgian-based Jan Amos Comenius Foundation (FJAC) has been supporting related initiatives in the region. FJAC has been working in the public schools of Nueva Guinea to raise local capacity and educational standards with regards to the environment. Recently a sistership has been forged between the communities of Nueva Guinea and Rama Cay in aspirations of creating a cross-cultural exchange to raise levels of pedagogy while simultaneously ameliorating prejudice and hostility between Mestizo and indigenous youth in the region. With an emphasis on environmental consciousness, the unification employs methodologies derived from María Montessori and Jan Amos Comenius. The project incorporates 20 educators from both communities and is anticipated to benefit over 400 students.

Rama Cay is located 15 km to the southeast in the Bluefields bay and is accessed by small, motorized watercraft and canoe. The island has historically been populated by families of the Rama ethnicity and apart from the handful of Creole residents, this holds true today. As an anthropologic aside, the two islands (now fused together by oyster shells and organic matter) were awarded to the Rama by the Miskito in recognition for their assistance in fighting a rival indigenous tribe in the 17th century.

Although currently detached from the national electrical grid, the island community uses a diesel plant that provides electricity to a majority of the households. Unfortunately, the local school is not connected to this grid, and deprived of light and the use sophisticated teaching aids, the ability to provide quality education proves difficult.

To overcome this difficulty in educational and infrastructural gaps between the two sister schools, FJAC constructed a media lab adjoining the school in Rama Cay and subcontracted blueEnergy to size and install a solar photovoltaic system to meet the lab's energy demands. Using distributed generation software, blueEnergy technicians were able to design a cost effective array that covers 99.5% of the equipment’s electrical demand. The two 325-Ah Trojan batteries used to store the system's energy were donated by blueEnergy's friends at Trojan Battery Company. The 540-watt solar system mounted to the schools roof supplies energy to the four electrical outlets and seven high-efficiency lights installed in the media lab, library and classroom of the school. Thanks to efforts from FJAC, the Rama Cay media lab has been fully equipped with a Mini Mac computer, two digital cameras, wireless Internet, printer and projector.

One panel installed, the other awaiting installation

Tying in the control panel in Rama Cay

Now fully armed with valuable educational tools, the school of Rama Cay is ready to partake in the cross-cultural exchange of educators and kick its level of education up a notch (or three!). blueEnergy is thankful for the opportunity to lend its technical support for a noble cause and gives its praises to Gerd and Elba from FJAC.

blueEnergy and Rama Cay teachers and students in front of a job well done!

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