Solar Energy Boosts Learning in Refugee Camp
‘The learners feel safe to come to study at night. Without this project, it would be impossible for this to happen’
Dadaab, Kenya – Susan James is working on a document. Close by, Abdifatah is adding up figures on a spreadsheet, while Ikrah sketches a house on a notepad. Welcome to Friends Primary School in Ifo, Dadaab Refugee Camp. This is where students learn computer skills.
With electricity in short supply, the prospect of learners embracing information technology is difficult, if not impossible. But thanks to the Italian energy and gas company ENI, headquartered in Rome, the school now has solar panels. The panels provide lighting in classrooms and power the computers.
Through AVSI, an international Non-Governmental Organization operating in Dadaab, the Ministry of Energy and the County Government of Garissa where Dadaaab is located, Eni has installed solar lighting in 11 schools. As part of this Public Private Partnership, Friends Primary School received 10 desktop computers too.
‘Learners are now very motivated to come to school and this in turn has led to improved performance and results.’
The solar power project was conceived after a lecture to the children of Dadaab, as part of the Vodafone Foundation’s Instant Network Schools, by the CEO Claudio Descalzi. Access to renewable energy and a crossover tool to support education was identified as one of the priorities in the camps.
Students during and ICT lesson at the school UNHCR/B.Rono
3. Mr. Machar, the computer teacher, takes learners through an ICT lesson at the school. UNHCR/B.Rono
3. Mr. Machar, the computer teacher, takes learners through an ICT lesson at the school UNHCR/B.Rono
‘Learners are now very motivated to come to school and this in turn has led to improved performance and results. Before the solar project, the school was ranked second last out of 18 schools, but the recent performance placed us at position 4,’ says Mr. Atem Pete, the Headmaster of Friends Primary School.
The solar lights also played an important role in prevention of Sexual and Gender Based Violence.
The solar lighting has also greatly improved security in and around the school. During the recent flooding in Dadaab, 1246 affected persons came to shelter in the school partly because of light. The solar lights also played an important role in prevention of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV).
Night time study is now possible for many candidates who will be sitting their final Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations in November, and who need to study late into the evenings.
‘The learners feel safe to come to study at night. Without this project, it would be impossible for this to happen,’ adds the Mr. Pete.
As the world marks World Environment Day on 5th June, this project could not have been more needed. In addition to taking learners through their computer lessons, Mr. Machar, another teacher, also teaches students the benefits of using solar energy.
‘Solar energy is affordable and does not mess up the environment,’ says Omar, a student in class 7. He and his classmates work on their short biographies.
The community around the school is also very happy with the project and members are also very keen to be involved in computer literacy. The school is working out a program to incorporate community leaders in ICT lessons too.
Teachers are also benefitting from this project. Lessons are now planned on computers while examinations are set and printed more easily now. Before the project, teachers would need to pay for typing and printing services from Dadaab town or Ifo market at exorbitant rates.
‘It is now easier to analyze student and subject performance which in turn gives a clear picture of learner progress. We are then able to design programs to support learners who are not doing very well,’ Hassan Ali, the Deputy Headteacher who also doubles up as Academic Director says.
‘I am happy to study computers because I believe it will lead to a bright future. I want to be a doctor when I grow up,’ says Deborah, a student in class 7.
‘We are now able to study at night,’ adds Ikrah, another pupil.
Marco Lembo, the UNHCR External Relations Officer and focal point for the project says that the project will substantially improve the lives of hundreds of learners in both Dadaab refugee camps and host community. ‘It will have a positive impact in the peaceful coexistence of the two communities, the refugees and host community. This will also be a pilot for other refugee operations across the world,’ says Lembo.
Dadaab Refugee Complex was established in 1991 and is today composed of four refugee camps (Dagahaley, Ifo, Ifo 2 and Hagadera) with a total population of 250,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Around 60% of the total population is under 18, less than 50% attend school while about 75% have no access to energy.