Canadian start-up helping with education challenges in Kenya caused by COVID-19 pandemic


December 28, 2020

Prior to 2020, the world had the highest number of children in school ever. But when the pandemic hit, more than 1.5 billion children were forced home as schools closed around the world, and money for tuition dried up. In many developing countries, those schools have still not re-opened and many never will. When the pandemic is over, it is estimated that 10 million children may never return to school, so says the charity Save The Children. This will be a devastating legacy of the pandemic.

Solar Panda, a Canadian renewable energy start-up that operates in Kenya, has launched a small initiative to help how they can. Solar Panda designs and sells Solar Home Systems to families in rural Kenya that don’t have access to the electrical grid. These systems improve lives by allowing families to displace harmful and dangerous kerosene lanterns with clean, affordable lights, radios, phone charging, and TVs.

During the summer, the teams from Canada and Kenya were on Skype talking about their kids being home and the difficulties with remote learning. They discussed how in many homes in Kenya, there was no learning taking place at all, given the lack of laptops and internet connection. The company’s founder, Andy Keith, had an idea. What if they could provide educational content on USB sticks that could play on their customers’ TVs, thus getting around the internet issue?

The team ran with the idea, and Solar Panda launched a not-for-profit education initiative this fall to provide free Khan Academy content to anyone with a USB stick. USB sticks loaded with free educational content can be plugged into their television and children in grades K-12 can engage in interactive lessons on topics such as reading, math, science, social studies, and life skills.

The Khan Academy is a world-class provider of free educational content. Solar Panda’s customers can now access over 1,000 hours of content, curated by Kenyan teachers to fit the Kenyan school curriculum. For families who don’t have a USB stick, Solar Panda decided to offer them at a fraction of cost.

“Families don’t have computers at home, and they don’t have the savings to allow them to stop work or the time to home-school their children”, says Sony Musundi, Head of Sales in Nairobi. And because of the economic impact of COVID-19, many children have entered the workforce to help families survive. With schools closed, education becomes a luxury.

John Okewo, a Solar Panda customer, says “As a parent, this is the best thing that has been introduced by Solar Panda. Even kids from around the neighbourhood are coming to watch the videos.” Solar Panda has its Solar Home Systems in nearly 140,000 homes in Kenya, many of which have a TV, providing an opportunity to tens of thousands of students. Although it is only a drop in the ocean during this heartbreaking year, the Solar Panda team has been proud to do what they can.


About Solar Panda

Solar Panda, headquartered in Canada and Nairobi, manufactures and sells Solar Home Systems that include lights, mobile charging, and a television through its network of 25 shops across Kenya. Launched in 2017, Solar Panda has grown quickly due to its high-quality products, affordable pricing, excellent customer service, and direct sales strategy. Solar Panda’s products have a profound impact on the lives of low-income, rural families in Kenya, saving families money, enabling children to study at night and improving health through the elimination of harmful kerosene fumes. Now in nearly 140,000 homes, Solar Panda is bringing clean, affordable electricity to over half a million Kenyans. The company’s motto in Swahili is Boresha Maisha, “improving lives”. For more information go to