This blog was published on January 23, 2023
Education is a recognized human right and there is little doubt of its importance for a person’s future. It enables upward socioeconomic mobility and is a key to escaping poverty. Unfortunately, 57 million children are still unschooled worldwide according to Unesco, with more than half of them in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Others, like Hamza, a 4th grade student in Pakistan, struggle with the necessary conditions to study or do their homework at home. His family could only access light through a kerosene lamp: “Because of the dim light, I had to keep my book right in front of it to read properly. Also, the smell of kerosene burning was very bad.” Hamza’s father decided to get a solar lamp through Harness Energy so he could study at night. He now has it on the shelf and is able to do his homework comfortably.
According to GOGLA’s Powering Opportunity report, 85% of households in East Africa report that children have more time to do their homework thanks to the light provided by their solar home system. Little Sun reports children can access 1200 additional hours of study time after dark over the lifespan of the lamp, helping to improve their performance at school.
With a portable solar lamp, children, especially girls, can also feel safer on their way to and from school. Busara, a student from Tanzania who has a Little Sun lamp says: “I have to walk long distances on foot to get to school and it’s always in the dark. My solar light brings me peace of mind, to me and to my little brother, too.”
Image: Power Africa
Ties between ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (SDG7) and an inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all (SDG4) go beyond creating the right conditions to study at home and feeling safer on the way to school. Families with solar light also have additional productive hours to do chores or work, improving family incomes.
The importance placed on education even in the more modest households is highlighted by the fact that with the savings customers made thanks to their solar home systems, education expenses were in their top 5 priorities, funding school fees, books and materials. So, while the most immediate impact of off-grid solar on education is to enable children more time for study, in the longer-term, savings can also help parents get their children into the classroom in the first place.
This is also true when there is better light and power in the school itself.
Image: Little Sun
A partnership between d.light and SolarCity’s GivePower Foundation electrified schools in Kenya. Charles Akumu, the principal at one of the primary schools, says that for them “the biggest challenge is ensuring all the students come to school and attend class. Now that we have a good lighting system, the students are motivated to attend class and come to school.”
SolarAid’s social enterprise Sunny Money has set up innovative projects to reach the poorest families who are unable to purchase even the smallest solar lanterns outright. For example, their ‘Light Libraries’ allow families of students to borrow a solar light for a fraction of the cost of buying it. Children are thus incentivized to go to school to recharge the light and, over time, the lights can also generate revenue for local schools, boosting education budgets and teacher retention.