Posted on 02 July 2020
From a mile away, the roof of Mchakama Primary School glitters in midday sun. The effect, though, comes not from the roof but from what is on it: a sparkling array of solar panels.
Mchakama Primary School is one of many off-grid primary schools of Kilwa District Council. In 2018, through WWF Sida funded Leading the Change Programme in partnership SUHODE the school received solar panels. 400 Watts solar panels were fitted in 2 classrooms,4 teachers house and the teachers Office.
Mr Saida Chausa,the Head Teacher recounts his experience before the school received the panels
‘’ For the teachers in my school, when night falls, work and studying stops. Bear in mind the school has seven classes and 373 students, 178female and 195 males. And we are only 4 teachers! From 07:00 am to 03:30 pm we switch classes not much time is left for other things like marking etc we are always on the move. When the children go home that when we settle down beginning to mark, prepare and do other works. By then the sun has set and we are left with no lights, so we close our office and head home ‘’
Surrounded by coastal forests, the village of 625 households rely on kerosene lantern for lighting the houses. With, less than 2% using solar energy. Thus, teachers at Mchakama work at home using the lantern either kerosene or battery charged exposing them respiratory diseases and eyesight challenges.
“It was time consuming and expensive to work from home and office with no constant source of light. At times to accomplish tasks you must purchase batteries or kerosene out of you pocket. In addition, this lack of power isolates us, and limits our access to education and information, both of which are key to fast-tracking a nation's development in education.Using our laptops was impossible and we could not can’t charge our phone on time or listen to news,” he adds.
In less than a year notable improvement has been observed at the school.
“The importance of the solar lightening cannot be over emphasized especially for a community like ours which is off grid. There is a huge difference in the students and teacher’s performance ever since we received the solar panels. Before, teachers would hardly finish marking all the students exercise. Now, our work is done on timely manner.We are also able to use our laptops to access information that enrich our sessions contents.On the other side, students attending afterschool classes has increase as they no excuse for not attending nor finishing their assignments,” said Ramadhani Champunga
“In education, we have something unique called ‘Interschool examination’. This are sort of school competition on academics, were we invite another school for a joint examination to evaluate our student’s performance. This year our school is hosting andd we are look forth to good scores because our students are well prepared thanks to WWF and SUHODE for the Solar Panels,” he adds.
Relying on solar panels has some drawbacks, including that they can be less effective in rainy seasons, however the Head teacher is confidence of the future stating the coastal weather is the added advantage.
“These are the kinds of initiatives that will transform our lives; With the solar panels our teachers will work effectively, and our student will be able to compete with the rest of the students across the country. We expect and are almost certain that our performance will improve when our students sit for their 2019 national examinations,”. he noted
A clean energy source of light for education is a vital component in ensuring access to education and conservation of the environment.
“Solar installation is an incentive to Mchakama village for forest conservation in the ongoing WWF Programme. We call on the local government to promote solar in education institutions as a well as at household levels.’’ states Mr Frank Luvanda, SUHODE Director.