Africa > East Africa > Uganda > A Village School Struggling With Solar Energy to Ensure Good Education in Uganda

Uganda: A Village School Struggling With Solar Energy to Ensure Good Education in Uganda

2015/08/01

It is a world trend presently with most developing nations focusing their plan on rural electrification in a bid for the rural communities to catch up in various developments just like their counterparts in urban areas.

The emphasis on one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) to make rural villages smart in as far as provision of different energy source is concerned is being taken up by most governments and different development partners throughout the globe Uganda inclusive.

A statement by Uganda's Rural Electrification Strategy and Plan (RESP) covering the period 2013 to 2022 emphasizes that rural electrification constitutes a critical part of the governments long range programme to eradicate rural poverty and to foster opportunities for rural Ugandans in each part of the national territory.

The statement further states that rural electrification is critical because it stimulates rural employment diversification and draws price adding enterprises to rural areas thereby improving farmers' terms of trade and gain levels.

This, the statement says, will lead to enhanced food security for all people inclunding create opportunities for rural citizens.

In the statement, a number of things have been highlighted and some of them include positioning the electrification development program on a path that will progressively advance towards succcess of universal electrification by the year 2040.

Policy makers think there will be displacement of kerosene lighting in all rural Ugandan homes by 2030 and during the 10 year planning period, the Government's strategy is to achieve a rural electrification access of 22% and consumers who will be utilizing electricity in their homes, businesses or institutions by 2022 from the current level of about 5%.

Off grid electrification services comprising energy service technologies not dependent on the national grid shall preferably be planned, offered and furnished to eligible consumers in the service territories in cycles with on grid electrification services.

These include communities living in Islands of Lake Victoria and mini grids and solar panels systems will be availed to them.

The solar panel programme may be implemented as sanctioned projects proposed by solar panel providers or under customer aggregation schemes facilitated or owned by the on grid service.

On grid service is expected to be expanded to provide approximately 1.28 million new service connections.

Off grid services are to be increased by approximately 140,000.

This means that approximately 1.42 million new rural consumers will have access to electricity, making a total of approximately 1.6 million rural electric services against the current rural access which is approximately 180, 000 consumers.

The associated capital spending funding requirement to achieve these results is estimated to be US$951.6 million.

Funding resources for capacity building, technical assistance and training is estimated to be US$10 million and additional estimated cost for miscellaneous activities is US$30 million inclunding conference the supplementary financing needs of the service providers for working capital, consumer financing assistance for the customer portion of the cost of service connection fees, home-wiring and purchases of appliances and productive electricity use equipment and upstream development costs of a additional aggressive rural power generation program puts the world funding target for the period to bet approximately US$951.6 million.

Against such a background by presently there are individuals living in off grid areas carrying out their own developments using individually purchased solar panels.

Individual experiences

Milly Nalwanga

My Name is Ms Milly Nalwanga and I am the proprietor of Good Hope Mixed Day and Boarding Primary School which is located in Manja B village, Lwengo District about 30 km from Masaka town.

I started this school in 2012 next serving as a secondary school teacher in various schools in Masaka District.

What inspired me to start this school was the lack of any nearby primary school where children in the village had no where to go to school.

The only school which existed in the village is Ngereko Primary School which is about two kilometres from Manja B village and it is under the government Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme

My major focus is mainly on vulnerable children and the orphaned. As such there are 36 orphaned children and 41 vulnerable for whom we are offering free education.

The total number of children from primary one to primary seven are 376 pupils and those who pay school fees are charged Shs35, 000 and an additional Shs 6,000 for food.

Those who are in boarding section pay Shs200, 000 inclunding requirements which include a tin of beans to be supplied in the school by each pupil in the boarding section.

At the same time as we started the school, there was no source of energy and pupils in the boarding section used to read using torches and local lamps which was such a large challenge.

But I managed to purchase one solar panel at Shs1.4 million in 2013 but it has issues with its battery because sometimes the light goes off particularly during rainy season where the sunshine is not strong to enable charging.

Before, at the same time as we were using lamps, we used to spend much additional money for purchasing paraffin but this has reduced.

We are currently using six bulbs for lighting in the selected classrooms and the dormitories but I would wish to purchase additional solar panels so that I can connect power to the staff quarters inclunding use it for computers and other appliances like refrigerator and television.

Apparently, we can only switch on 4 bulbs in the evening excluding security lights but at the same time as the children have finished reading preps we switch on one security light and two additional bulbs in the girls and boys dormitories.

I need to invest in a solar panel which has much stronger battery such that the teachers are in position to teach using laptops because the Ministry of Education has come up with a policy where all schools are supposed to conduct teaching using power point presentation.

Having 20 bulbs and 8 computers for aiding teaching would be an added chance for better performance of the children.

Obtaining photocopy service has been a challenge because we have to go to the nearest trading centre which is about 3 km where the major grid is and sometimes we go to Masaka town which is 30 km away.

To set up the school I obtained the financial support from sell of proceeds from my coffee plantation. To add on energy usage I would like to venture into biogas use but the cost of setting the plant and even acquire animals to obtain the waste is high.

But for presently we are using firewood to prepare meals to the children.

Because of the challenge of failing to be connected to major grid, we have not been able to get candidates who pass in initial grade.

In the year 2012 at the same time as there was no power for lighting, nine pupils passed in grade 2, two passed in grade 3 and two passed in fourth grade.

In 2013 there were 10 pupils and 8 passed in grade 2 while 2 passed in grade three. Last year, a total of 18 pupils sat primary leaving exams and 16 were in grade 2 while 2 were in third grade and they were day scholars.

Pupil's Experience

I am Peninah Juliet Zalwango and I am primary 7 pupil. I would like to study hard and pass in division one but we have a challenge of the solar power going off so frequently. Sometimes at the same time as we are in the classroom for preps, the lights go off and it is very frustrating.

Teacher's Experience

I am called Mr Moses Odong and I came from Lira to teach in Masaka but at the same time as Ms Nalwanga asked me approaching and teach at her school and be the careers master I accepted because it is good to educate orphans and vulnerable children.

Since the school is based in a rural area I obtain monthly fee of Shs150, 000 which I think cannot even fulfill all my needs because I am a family person with children

But in case we manage to acquire better energy source, the school will be in position to develop and attract additional children who will be in position to pay fees because in all village there are about two private schools for pupils and our school is the only one with solar power.

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