Maaher Bhaloo: Academy student proposes affordable and sustainable electricity for Zanzibar | Aga Khan Academies

Maaher Bhaloo: Academy student proposes affordable and sustainable electricity for Zanzibar

29 January 2021

Maaher Bhaloo, a Year 10 student at the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, Kenya was the first runner up for the “Best Tech/Science Innovator of the Year” category, and the youngest participant, at the Zanzibar Youth Awards 2021. Maaher designed and developed an affordable, environmentally conscious solar power plant proposition as his personal project for the Academy, which was recently approved by the Zanzibar government for implementation.  

Tanzania’s pristine blue waters, its whitewashed sandy beaches and rich, cosmopolitan history entice thousands of tourists to visit the beautiful island of Zanzibar every year. In recent years, an influx of new technologies has led to a rise in the demand and consumption of electricity on the island. However not all Zanzibaris can afford electricity - an all too necessary tool not just for everyday life but also for fostering development in education, healthcare, industry, business and so much more. 

Growing up in Zanzibar, Maaher witnessed families in his community struggle to pay for expensive electricity, in addition to noting an absence of eco-friendly initiatives to keep Zanzibar sustainable for future generations. As he pursued his education at the Academy, these two issues were at the forefront of his mind.  

Maheer joined AKA Mombasa in 2016 as a residential student. He brought with him a passion for his hometown and a vision for a prosperous, sustainable and thriving Zanzibar. In addition to participating in community service – a key component of the Academy’s educational mission and vision for social responsibility – Maaher also participated in beach and park cleanups in Zanzibar to keep his town clean and beautiful.  

Year 10 students at Aga Khan Academies are required to pursue a personal project that combines their own passion with what they have learned at the Academy.  The Academy’s International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum is enriched by the Academy’s unique Aga Khan Curricular Strands, which encourages students to share their knowledge and to collaborate with others in their community to enhance the peoples’ quality of lifeMaaher knew straight away, exactly what his personal project would tackle.  

“I am passionate about the environment, my town’s development and community service, the latter being something taught to me by the Academy as an important aspect of life,”Maahersaid.“Through my personal project, I was able to combine these interests to create‘Zanzibar  Solar Island’, a proposition for a solar power plant that will transition from using fossil fuels to renewable energy, to increase the availability of sustainable and affordable electricity in Zanzibar.” 

Inspired by his commitment to environmental sustainability and community service, Maaher tapped into skills he had acquired at the Academy to develop his eco-friendly proposal. Hedesigned a model of the solar power plant using wood, turf and real solar cells. “Subjects like Product Design andPhysics that I took at the Academy really helped me develop my model. Also, the time management andorganisationalskills I learned at the Academy helped me to stay on track and deliver my project on time.”  

According toMaaher, the solar power plant will harness energy from the sun to generate inexpensive,clean and reliable electricity for most of the island’s local householdsas well combat the hazardous effects of fossil fuels, which are harmful to both the environment and public health. 

Maheer presentedthe completed model of his solar energy design to Zanzibar’s Director of Energy, Mr Mohammed Abdulla Mohammed. He was so impressed with his initiative that he set up ameeting forMaaherto present his project toZanzibar’s Minister of Land, Water, Housing and Energy, the Honourable Salama Aboud Talib. She immediately approvedMaaher’sproject for implementation, applauding Maaher’s innovative commitment to enacting positive change for Zanzibaris and improving their quality of life.  

"I was very happy that my project was approved because I thought about the beneficial impact this proposal could bring to the community,” Maahersaid. “It was alsoa proud moment for me because I worked hard to develop the proposal.”  

Students like Maaher bring great pride to the Academies as they show promise of becoming young leaders in their communities as well as agents of change in the world by embodying some of the Academies’ founding goals.  

Maaher fundamentally believes everyone mustplay a role in fostering thesustainability of our planet.He is confidentthatthe solar power plant will strengthen his city’seconomy. Access to affordable and reliable electricity will help improve education, productivity in business, healthcare, as well as people’s daily lives.  

As he waits for his vision of “Zanzibar – a Solar Island” to be realised, Maaher is already devising plans for his Diploma Programme at the Academy next year. “I want to create a fundraising organisation to install solar panels among the less advantaged communities in Zanzibar.” Although he aspires to attend university abroad, Maaher envisions himself returning home to Zanzibar afterwards to give back to his community.