BY CATHY AMUTENYA
Rural solar electrification specifically at rural schools has been on the agenda of many countries including Namibia. Based on the targets set out in the Harambee Prosperity Plan, the government intends to electrify about 400 schools in rural areas before 2020. The Sustainable Development Goal Seven (SDG7) also calls for the ambitious objective of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern technology for all.
To complement government efforts of electrifying off-grid rural schools, the Hanns Seidel Foundation’sPromoting Renewable Energies in Namibia (PREN) Project aims to support selected rural schools and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) / Start-ups with obtaining renewable energy hardware. During the Baseline Study, it was observed that the most unelectrified schools are in Ohangwena region. Hence, the first two schools to benefit are in Ohangwena region namely Ondjabayonghalu Combined School and Omuuni Combined School. Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems will be installed at the two school during the first half of 2018.
Ohangwena region compared to other regions in the country has been identified to have the most schools and the highest number of learners. According to Mrs Palisha Ngulu, Education Director of Ohangwena region, Ohangwena has 105 565 learners and 265 schools with most of them not having access to electricity. The current situation is that learners attend school without electricity, leaving them without power for lighting, computers, Internet, printers and more. This has huge implications on their education. Without lighting, the learners have very limited reading and studying times; without Internet, they are cut of from a world of free teaching tools and resources and without computers and printers, it is very difficult create critical educational materials. Moreover, without electricity, it is hard for teachers to teach and for the administration team to run the daily operations smoothly and this usually result in the school relying on costly yet environmentally unfriendly energy options such as petrol generators.
The learners, teachers and administration at Omuuni Combined School expressed these challenges:
“ We have a problem because sometimes teachers are writing tests on papers instead of typing because we don't have electricity. Sometimes we are taught IC whereby examples are used, so we don't get to see those things. Also, sometimes the learners that come and camp at school, they come to study at night but there’s no electricity, so they use torches.”- Olivia Mbangula
“We don’t even have electricity in those classes, therefore it’s hard for us to pass on the knowledge on how to use the Internet. Also, learners need the Internet so that they can download activities online and catch up on what is happening in the world.” - Rawanifwa Ndilulwalungi
“As there is no electricity, sometimes at night, there are snakes and sometimes we get bitten as we cannot see. Sometimes, we want to do our work during the night in those classes but it’s not possible”, another teacher stated
“As an Admin, I’m entitled to work with computers and machines and I can’t do all my work on time because I have to switch on the generator as it is the one that supplies us with power to print our reports” - Rosalia Haipinge
The PREN Project will be providing Solar PV Systems at the selected schools and this will improve the level of education at the schools. It is expected that the extended learning time, access to computers and to the Internet, the increased amounts of printed materials and improving the level of teaching will come about because of the Solar systems.
Before the installation of the Solar systems, from the 29 January 2018 until the 02 February 2018, the PREN Project team accompanied by officials from the Ministry of Education, Art and Culture and the Project Partners Namibia Energy Institute (NEI) and EduVentures visited Ondjabayonghalu Combined School and Omuuni Combined School in Ohangwena region. The familiarization visits were aimed at assessing the schools and meeting the local stakeholders to introduce the PREN Project and its Partners as well to sensitize them on the installation of the Solar systems.
Prior to meeting the school management, the PREN Project team held meetings with relevant local stakeholders including consultations with the Education Directorates and the Regional Councillors, including Member of Parliament Honourable Phillip Shilongo, and senior officials within the Ohangwena Regional Council. They commended the Project for making efforts in assisting the government implement its development goals. The Education Director of Ohangwena Region Mrs Palisha Ngulu expressed this sentiment during the stakeholder meeting with the PREN Project team. She said that it is commendable when development partners such as HSF are meeting government halfway to ensure the attainment of development goals.
Ms Maria Johannes Project Manager at EduVentures presenting on the mobile classroom as well as educating the community members on education for sustainable development
Raising awareness on environmental sustainability at a grass-root level is key hence EduVentures was given a platform to present their mobile classroom as well educate the community members on education for sustainable development. The principal of Ondjabayonghalu Combined School expressed that EduVentures’ intervention is needed. He further stated that due to the uniformity of the fauna and flora and flat landscapes, the learners there don’t even have an idea of a mountain and other landscapes in other parts of the country.
The PREN Project Coordinator Mr Rodney Seibeb said that the familiarization visits were a major success and it has contributed to raising awareness on the HSF PREN Project, its partners and activities.
Follow TH!NK NAMIBIA for updates on the PREN Project activities.