Communities in rural areas of Zambia, have a brighter future thanks to The Halcrow Foundation, which is funding a project to provide solar-powered lighting to five schools.

Daylight in Zambia usually lasts around 12 hours per day. This is precious time for families in poor rural areas to work the land around their homes, gather food and water and travel to markets to sell produce. There is no social welfare system in place and many of these families are headed by a single parent or even a child.

When children are old enough they often have to help their families with farming work, fetch water, prepare food and look after younger siblings. Education gives children and adults a valuable opportunity to escape this cycle of poverty and have a better future, but it has to fit around important daytime work or be done after dark by the light of candles and kerosene lamps.

James Bwalya, Head Teacher of Kankumba Primary School in Rufunsa says: “Kankumba Primary School has 1025 pupils travelling in from 12 villages, the furthest of which is 10km away, which they walk each way every day. Some classes start 7.00am. To improve pupil performance we need power. The school conducts evening classes but there is the serious challenge of lighting. The computer lab has no power and we are currently using a generator set which is very expensive to run. It is therefore important that we have power for effective teaching and learning of lessons. We also have a safe house (boarding for girls) and offices that need power.”

Simple solution

By funding this project The Halcrow Foundation is helping lift families out of poverty. The project is run by Lights for Learning, a UK-based charity that provides and installs solar-powered lighting in schools, clinics and other places of learning in areas that would otherwise have to rely on natural light. It’s a simple solution that can have a huge impact on whole communities. Lights For Learning’s solar powered lighting systems mean children can study for longer in safely-lit classrooms and teachers have longer to mark, plan and help pupils with their homework, which raises educational standards. This in turn gives people higher personal aspirations and ambitions, adults find they can use their evenings to return to school, and young people see a future for themselves beyond subsistence living.

The project involves Lights for Learning working with the Council of Churches in Zambia to train unemployed male and female members of the local community to manufacture and fit the lighting systems. The ultimate goal is to expand the work carried out in the workshops. Lights for Learning already manufacture solar powered equipment in the UK, including lighting systems for schools, mobile phone chargers and borehole pumping systems. By training local adults in Lusaka these skills are transferred to Zambia and the team can continue manufacturing lighting systems there. This method of upskilling local people will benefit the wider community by improving job prospects, health and prosperity, and ensure the project’s sustainability.