Energy

How solar energy is powering bright futures in Uganda

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It isn’t easy for girls to follow their dreams in rural Uganda. Society there places little value on education for females and restricts the opportunities education gives them for future growth and achievement of their dreams.

According to UNESCO estimates, over 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school and 15 million girls of primary-school age—half of them in sub-Saharan Africa— will never enter a classroom.

In fact, statistics from UNICEF show that while 81% of girls in Uganda attend primary school, there is an attendance of just 15.8% at secondary schools.

A decent level of education for girls in Uganda is not a right, but something that often needs to be paid for—and for many families, this is just not possible.

But in Uganda, there is a strong desire among girls to gain an education to create opportunities for income and empower themselves to forge a better life.

The introduction of off-grid solar to Uganda is life-changing on many levels, but it is having a major impact on the access to education for girls there. Two examples of how this can help:

Solar in schools: The transition from the traditional kerosene generator to solar power for schools in Uganda has a massive impact on the opportunities for pupils, not only giving them light to study by but access to modern technology that was previously only theory in textbooks.

Solar at home: For girls in Uganda, having reliable solar energy in their homes means they have light to continue their studies at home as well as mobile technology to keep in touch with peers. For their families, solar access saves them money on fuel, meaning they can better afford education.

The impact of solar access is truly life-changing for girls in rural Uganda and across sub-Saharan Africa, and that is why Energise Africa is making it possible for UK investors to finance pioneering businesses that provide and install affordable and safe systems in homes, schools and businesses there. From just £50, investment in our projects has a real impact on the lives of African families.

These benefits were witnessed first-hand when the Energise Africa team was in Uganda visiting customers of these solar businesses, who recently had solar systems installed.

During a visit to Lumuza Secondary School, where more than 50% of the 300 students are female, the recent installation of solar energy had provided a major boost to the students’ education and future prospects.

Prior to getting solar, the school was too rural to access Uganda’s unreliable energy grid and relied on a kerosene generator, which was noisy, expensive, and provided low-quality lighting that made reading difficult and produced CO2 emissions.

Having access to solar has had a huge impact on the lives of the students at the Lumuza school. Not least, having good quality reliable lighting means they can read properly after dark and study for longer each day — creating extra time in the mornings and evenings for personal study time, which is important in helping them to perform to the best of their abilities in exams.

The solar energy access also brought with it new learning opportunities as now the school was able to provide computers and have access to the internet for the first time.

Analysis of the positive social, economic and educational benefits of off-grid solar was presented by the Overseas Development Institute at the recent UN climate change summit (COP23) in Bonn just a few weeks ago. Their research found that children living in the developing world could gain significant study time each day if their homes and schools switched to solar energy.

Students who had solar access at home are also at an advantage, as children in households with solar lighting can nearly double their homework hours each night.

The study also found that there was a positive financial impact on homes and schools switching from kerosene to solar.

For girls in rural Africa, access to clean, reliable energy is a key component to a better education and a brighter future. In fact, SolarAid research shows that students rated limited lighting as their top factor for what challenged their opportunities to learn and do homework.

However, it is not just the additional time for study that has benefited the kids at Lumuza school. Previously, their learning was purely theory via textbooks. But they now have access to computers and other modern technology that gives them the opportunity to learn experientially.

Energise Africa is brought to you by two of Europe’s online impact investing platforms Ethex and Lendahand and supported by UK aid and Virgin Unite. We are committed to significantly improving clean energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa. To find out more about what we’re doing and to help us achieve our goal of enabling 110,000 families to access solar power over the next 3 years visit www.lendahand.co.uk.

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