Until I was 14 years old, I never worried about having electricity to charge my phone, and didn’t give a second thought to flipping on the lamp switch to study at night. Electricity was a given. But in 2015, South Africa instituted a policy called “load shedding” across the country, due to delays in the construction of new electrical plants. Load shedding is a euphemism for planned blackouts. For a few hours every day, sometimes in the early morning, sometimes at night, we had no power at home or at school. I had to study for my exams using a headlamp or small solar light. I dressed for school in the pitch dark, unable to find my shoes or make breakfast. I was unable to use my computer at school because it wasn’t charged. During this time I began toappreciate fully the importance of electricity - and the invaluable role it plays in ensuring that children are educated, families are safe, and businesses are productive.
In late 2017, I learned about the work of Mobisol, a start-up company that provides low-cost, reliable, stand-alone solar power to hundreds of thousands of people across Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya. In many rural areas across Tanzania, schools don’t have electricity of any kind. Teachers and students are in the dark, both literally and figuratively, because the necessity that most of us take for granted is simply not available.
In the rainy season, teachers and students struggle to see in darkened classrooms, greatly hindering learning and academic progress. There is no possibility to use computers, or to access the internet. Dark schools are unsafe, and subject to theft and vandalism. Electrifying a school with a reliable solar system - illuminating the grounds and the classrooms- is truly life-changing. This is especially true for schools located adjacent to national parks, thousands of kilometers from urban areas, and with no real hope of ever being connected to national power grids.
Currently, most teachers who stay late into the night preparing lesson plans and marking tests must do so by kerosene lamp - a practice which is harmful both to the person, and to the environment. But this can change.
Sustainable electrification of schools immensely improves the teaching and learning environment. By illuminating the school buildings with efficient LEDs, Teachers are given access to a simple commodity that makes their lives unquantifiably easier. Additionally, the lighting of the buildings enables the institutions to open their doors to the wider community after nightfall; students, teachers, and families get the opportunity to study, gather and jointly use the school facilities during the evening and night hours. Electricity allows teachers to communicate with other teachers and parents, to listen to educational and informational radio broadcasts, and to play music. Teachers can also show educational programs on the supplied solar TV. Computers can be operated, providing students with the opportunity to acquire IT skills that are increasingly important in Tanzania’s rapidly growing economy. Students can also learn how to use the Internet to access informational channels and navigate virtually in an increasingly interconnected world. Teachers can operate laptops and gather information via the Internet on appropriate teaching materials. In addition, the opportunity to charge cell phones provides real security benefits – both for students in case of health problems or accidents and for teachers who are staying at school after nightfall as they can now easily call for outside help in case of problems via their charged cell phone.
I believe in the power of renewable sustainable sources of energy. It can be a game changer for school children in Tanzania. I want to ensure that students have access to the best education possible. Based on a recent study conducted in Kenya, students who have access to electricity in their schools and homes increase their marks by 40%,
For all of these reasons, I am taking a stand, and attempting to making a change. I am raising $15,000 to fully electrify three schools in rural Tanzania, located next to the Singita Grumeti Conservation area in the vast Serengeti plains. The electrification of these schools will greatly enhance the day-to-day lives of hundreds of students and ensure that they are able to complete their educations. Each school will have a 600Wp Mobisol Solar School System installed, and teachers, parents, and students will be trained to use the associated appliances (radio and web-enabled television) for educational purposes. Using the practical example of their own solar system, children get a more hands-on introduction to renewable energy and basic ideas of climate change, solar energy and sustainability. In this way, both teachers and children will be more likely to share their knowledge and sensitize their wider community about renewable energies and environmental protection. Best of all, once the systems are installed, the electricity is free. And the systems are guaranteed for four years.
I am installing the system in partnership with the Singita Grumeti Fund, who provide ongoing educational support, bursaries, and conservation training to these schools. With Singita’s help, I will be able to measure and evaluate the impact of the solar lighting system on school attendance and grades of selected students in the school. Your generous support will help electrify three schools in Tanzania by August 2018.
Over the next year, I will remain in contact with the students to share information and develop a plan to provide electricity to additional schools. I will share the results with you and document the impact that electricity has on the lives of these students and their families.
Together, we can help shine a light on teachers, allowing them to power children across Tanzania.