How Solar is Supporting Education in Africa

November 3, 2020

Education is vital for prosperous, healthy and equitable societies. However, it is almost impossible to provide communities with a formal education without access to reliable and affordable electricity services. 

Despite the importance of energy access as a tool to deliver education, according to the World Bank, “the vast majority of schools” report lack of electricity in nearly all countries of sub-Saharan Africa. 

Many of the unelectrified schools across the continent are located in remote areas with poor energy infrastructure and low energy demand. This makes them unattractive to traditional energy service providers. 

Solar home systems (SHS) offer rapid deployment of clean, reliable and affordable energy to schools and households reaching millions of children across sub-Saharan Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest rate of primary school electrification in the world, with just 35% of schools having access to the grid. Here are four ways off-grid solar companies, like Lumos, are trying to turn the tide on this inequality and use the power of renewable energy to better support education:

1. Silent energy and continuous light

Schools that use solar home systems can benefit from continuous power for lighting. This allows for extended study hours, hosting evening classes and community events, and enabling teachers to develop lesson plans outside of school hours.

While many people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to any form of electricity, the majority of the population is connected to the electricity grid but suffer from unreliable power supply. For those who suffer from frequent power outages, many turn to generators which are noisy and disruptive making it difficult for children to concentrate on their homework.  

Olusegun Banjo, a Lumos customer based in Nigeria, said “When my children came back from school, they had to either read by candlelight or with the distraction of a noisy generator. Now that we are using off-grid solar, they can do their homework in peace.”

2. Enabling modern education options

Access to reliable energy enables schools to use ICT services that can improve student and teacher educational experiences. Schools can make use of new equipment such as computers and printers, and students and teachers alike can enjoy access to the internet, connecting them to the rest of the world and unlimited education resources. 

3. Schools and households can save money

Off grid solar is the cheapest energy option for millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa. In an interview with Forbes, Lumos CEO Alistair Gordon explained that Lumos customers “are receiving electricity for significantly cheaper than running a generator: they were paying $70 a month to fuel their generators but now they pay $15 a month for off-grid solar.”

Cheaper energy means that households and schools can save money on electricity and spend more on education materials. Families which have a higher disposable income can choose to spend it on ways to improve their quality of life, for example being able to buy school supplies, uniforms or even sending their children to school. 

For schools, they may decide to spend their disposable income on  writing materials, computers and fans to keep classrooms cool. 

Jean Tanguy is a Lumos customer who set up a school in Côte d’Ivoire. He shared that with Lumos, “We have saved money, due to the instalment cost and monthly fees of Lumos being affordable. Having light in all of our classrooms and outside the school at night makes such a difference to the children’s school experience.” 

4. Longer study time

A Solar Aid study found that students rated limited lighting as their top challenge, limiting their opportunities to learn and do homework. With the sun setting as early as 6 pm in Nigeria, electric lighting is fundamental to helping children to finish their homework after dark in the safety of their own homes.

When light is not available at home, it forces children to either reduce their learning time or find an alternative light source. A viral photograph was taken earlier this year of Rasheed Fathia Dele, a young girl from Nigeria, doing her homework under the light of an ATM. Unfortunately, there are too many children like Dele who rely on outdoor street lighting to do their homework. Lumos believes that every child has the right to an education and within 48 hours of the photograph surfacing, we had a free solar-powered system installed at her home. 

A solid, modern, education is vital to unlocking a higher quality of life. Lumos is proud to offer affordable, reliable and safe power enabling hundreds of thousands of people across sub-Saharan Africa to enhance their education. To find out more about solar’s role in Africa, read our blog here.