Simon’s burning passion to invent
Simon Petrus latest invention – a SIM-free cellphone that can call anywhere for free, through the use of radio frequencies – has already landed him global fame, with his story spreading like wildfire across social and the mainstream media. It is hoped he has sought legal assistance to apply for a patent to protect his ideas and designs and benefit from them.
The 19-year-old’s passion to create was awakened many moons ago, when at the age of ten, when he went about collecting and dismantling electronic gadgets, and ended up building his very own juke box.
In a society where rural schooling presents many challenges, which often discourages pupils, resulting in them giving up on their dreams, Simon has beat the odds, while proving that with determination, anything is possible in life.
His cellphone creation, which uses neither a SIM card nor any airtime, may now land him in the Guinness Book of Records.
The Grade 12 learner from Abraham Iyambo Secondary School in Ohangwena region created the phone using cellphone parts and a television set.
Complete with a light bulb, fan and charger socket, the handset functions off power supplied through local sources at hand and is able to make calls to anywhere, through the use of radio frequencies.
The invention is attached to a box and also allows the user to view one television channel on it.
Simon is studying Oshikwanyama, English, Biology, Physical Science, Mathematics and Agriculture at the very remote boarding school, which is located between Eenhana and Okonkwo, about 50km away from the nearest paved road.
The teen inventor created his juke box in 2007, which was his first working invention.
“It was as if I had a fire burning inside of me, and I would always get in trouble for dismantling torches and radios, the few gadgets that my parents owned. I really don’t know what it was, but it was as if there was something pushing me to do the things I would do,” he said.
In his mother’s words, Simon was a curious young boy, who took apart every gadget that crossed his path, and then re-assembled them.
At school it was the same thing, as Simon would get in trouble for dismantling electrical equipment, before putting the complex gadgets back together again.
His teachers thought he was stubborn and naughty.
Life has not been easy for Simon, who has had to struggle to keep his dream and love for gadgets alive, in a rural community where learners are neglected and resources are few.
Not only is there a lack of resources at most rural schools, but there is also a lack of qualified teachers, because many qualified teachers find it difficult to live and work at these very remote schools.
Learners find themselves walking very long distances to school on empty stomachs and taking classes under the trees is common. There is also no money for prim and proper uniforms; the kids come to school in the best clean clothes that they have.
Simon is the second born in a large family of six girls and five boys.
He is from Oshipisha village in the Okonkwo constituency, where he lives with his unemployed mother and siblings.
His father passed away in 2008, leaving the already struggling family to fend for themselves, in a village where most people are struggling to make ends meet.
After his father died, his two sisters were forced to leave school to seek employment to help take care of the family.
In 2009, the young man created his second invention, which was a windmill that helped create electricity for their house in the village.
All his inventions were built with no help from anyone.
It was his imagination and knowing how to connect parts, through his years of dismantling gadgets, that has led to his inventions working as they do.
Last year, Simon won first place at a competition for young innovators, for creating a machine that doubles as a seed drier and a cooler.
According to school principal Hafeni Jeremiah, Simon is a shy young man, who is very friendly and full of jokes.
Simon got the cellphone invention idea long before he enrolled at Abraham Iyambo Secondary School.
When he started Grade 11, he approached the school principal to ask if he could repair the irons, radios and other electrical equipment of the other learners, so he could nurture and improve his talent.
The principal agreed realising that even if he had said no, Simon would have somehow find a way to do it, not because of stubbornness, but because of the burning desire in him. “The talent was kept inside for too long, since he was in primary school. He just needed someone to encourage and help him realise his potential,” Jeremiah said.
He added that at rural schools, talent is neglected and there is no exposure, and children end up not reaching their full potential because of that.
“This talent is only starting to be realised late. If this was exposed earlier, he would be far by now,” said the principal.
According to Jeremiah, if innovation science and technology can be encouraged and promoted in rural schools, it would bring out a lot of untapped talent.
“Learners in rural schools need guidance and motivation to know that they are just as good as those in urban schools,” he said.
He added that usually, students in rural schools are undermined, but it does not mean that because you are from the village you are unable to excel.
“The place where you are does not determine your future,” he said.
It takes a lifetime for some to realise their dreams and actually know what to do with their lives; this young man is living testimony that when one is destined for greatness, realising your God-given talent is very easy.
It is indeed true that every successful person has a story to tell, Simon’s story is that even if you are not a straight ‘A’ student, you can still go far.
Simon plans to study electrical engineering and hopes to one day create a power generator that will generate electricity for his whole village.
“There are many people in rural areas who are suffering, because they do not have opportunities to do something else with their lives; but it does not mean that they are not talented,” he said.