Children in low income communities in South Africa don’t have the luxury of complaining about the same things as American schoolchildren, many also don’t have the luxury of reliable sources of light.

According to the Parliament of South Africa, 11.4 million students walk to school daily, and those living in rough neighborhoods have to walk through poorly-lit roads, leaving them open to a variety of hazards. The South African National Roads Agency (SANRA) reports that 3 children die daily on roads. Up until recently, kerosene lanterns were the most available source of lighting, but those come with their own list of health effects and hazards.

To combat the lack of lighting and the risks of kerosene lanterns, Rethaka, a Rustenberg-based, all-women company, which focuses on sustainable solutions for poverty-stricken communities, has created the solar-powered, light-emitting, Repurpose Schoolbag.

When left to charge during the day, the bag can provide up to 12 hours of sunshine via a detachable solar light. In addition to providing a lighted walk home, the solar light from the bag can be removed and screwed into a standard glass jar when home from school, creating a practical and safe light that can be taken anywhere. According to Design Indaba, “The solar light means children can do their homework, even during power cuts, without breathing the fume or risking the fires often caused by kerosene lamps.”

The entire project uses only sustainable materials. Each bag is made using a durable, eco-friendly, and waterproof material composed of recycled plastic bags. The backpack also included reflective fabric, adding an extra layer of protection for road safety.

To distribute the bags, Rethaka looks for disadvantaged schools with students who have no access to basic school supplies, then finds a partner who is willing to fund the production of the bags. The “Giving Partners” are introduced to the school and students who are receiving the bags, giving them a chance to get to know the kids and staff.

To learn more about the project and how to become a Giving Partner, click here.



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