The Contribution of Solar Power Funding for Online Content Accessibility and Sustainability of Blended Learning in Rural Africa: The Tanzania Perspective
Access to quality higher education is currently considered as an important vehicle for poverty alleviation in most African countries, including Tanzania. However, due to limited number of on-campus universities and lack of trained tutors in rural areas, only a tiny proportion of Tanzanian population have access to higher education and most of these are from urban areas. Blended learning, which combines and aligns learning undertaken in face-to-face sessions with learning opportunities created online, has proved to be an effective tool to impart higher education knowledge to people living in remote and rural areas. However, blended learning remains of little significance to rural areas in Tanzania due to lack of reliable and sustainable electricity which prevents learners from maximizing the potentials of using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to enhance their learning. With the current problems facing the grid-power sector in Tanzania, having reliable and sustainable electricity in rural areas remains one of the key problems to overcome before the impact of blended learning can be seen. Solar electricity is of major interest for the rural energy sector in Tanzania because it offers the possibility of generating renewable electricity using sunlight. Despite these appealing features, penetration of solar electricity in remote and rural areas in Tanzania is limited by high initial cost of building a stand-alone solar system. This study reviewed eight solar power funding models (cash sales, donor-driven, layaway, dealer credit, end-user credit, hire-purchase, M-Kopa-pay-as-go and fee-for-service models) that are available in different developing countries, including Tanzania and recommended strongly the end-user credit model. This study has also illustrated how the identified solar power funding model can contribute to the acquisition of solar systems in rural areas in Tanzania thought the use of SACCOs, VICOBA and ROSCAs groups.
Key words: Blended learning, ICT, online content accessibility, solar electricity, solar power funding models, rural areas