ABU HASHEEM, Sudan — For many students and teachers across the African continent, energy poverty is a challenge faced every day both at home and at school. In fact, 90 million children in sub-Saharan Africa go to primary schools that lack electricity. That means that classrooms must be conducted without no projectors, presentations, fans, air conditioning units, night or evening classes, computers, or access to the internet.
The lack of access to energy greatly reduces the teaching resources and classroom materials. Without electricity, teachers aren’t able to make copies of school assignments or connect to the Internet to research what activities or materials are available online. They also can’t access online resources, such as videos and other multimedia sources, in their classrooms as valuable methods for instruction. As a result, teachers are unable to provide their students with the quality of education they deserve.
Energy poverty also complicates work for staff and school administration. School administrators are required to keep documentation of student’s and faculty’s grades and attendance rates manually on paper, instead of keeping a reliable, online record.
Another consequence of energy poverty is that it discourages teachers from working in areas without access to electricity. The lack of electric lighting, televisions, computers and other services deters well-trained and well-educated teachers from living and working in communities that may need them the most.
The lack of access to many necessities caused by energy poverty also serves as a major problem in many African schools. Children are oftentimes forced to collect firewood or clean water for cooking, heating and drinking instead of attending class, preparing for an exam or completing homework assignments. Alternative fuel sources or devices, like smoke hoods that cook food more efficiently, require the use of little to no firewood. Solar-powered water pumps provide families with easily accessible drinking water and reduce the number of cases of water-borne illnesses that contribute to disease and poor school attendance.
Energy access has real implications for educational attainment across the continent. Only half of primary school students in Abu Hasheem, a small south-eastern state in Sudan, received passing grades on their exams in 2007. That number increased to 100 percent after the Sudan Multi Donor Fund-National sponsored a project to provide solar power to the community. Success rates like this can be achieved across sub-Saharan Africa if more schools were provided with solar lights or other means of access to electricity.
– Matthew Jackoski
Sources: ONE, World Energy