Building a brighter future for schools in Zambia

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  • March 31, 2018

Communities in rural Lusaka, 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 Lusaka usually lasts around 12 hours per day, and this time is spent by families in poor rural areas working the land around their homes. When children are old enough they often have to help their families fetch water, prepare food, do farming work and look after younger siblings. Education gives children and adults the chance 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.

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. This simple solution has a huge impact on whole communities because it means 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 for a future beyond subsistence living.

“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.”
James Bwalya, Head Teacher of Kankumba Primary School, Rufunsa

The Halcrow Foundation-funded project involves Lights for Learning working with the Council of Churches of Zambia to employ and train members of the local community to manufacture and fit the lighting systems. This will extend the school day by 30 percent, providing extra study time for school children and adult education.

The project’s 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.

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