Solar power creates possibilities for education

Solar power makes it possible to study after sunset and improves chances of success in the educational system for refugees and off-grid populations.

bright home solar lamp education

By: Iben Bjørgulf Antonsen

BRIGHT SunBell enhance school performance

Julia is an 18-year-old girl born and raised in the UNHCR administered Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. She describes how the BRIGHT SunBell solar lamp has added value to her life, as she is now able to do homework after sunset:

“During the day we are in school. After we go home we might do some homework, but normally we help the parents with different things. Then at night we use the solar lamp for studying and it boosted our performance a lot”

Julia, living in Dadaab refugee camp.

Often the only time of the day students have time to do homework is at night when all chores are over. In a UNHCR report about Innovative Technology for Better Refugee Protection it is stated that:

“In camps without electricity or light, girls and boys cannot study at night, which is often the only time they get a chance to do homework. Evidence shows that the schools drop-out rates increase when students cannot complete or keep up with their studies.”

Solar lamps give better chance of educational success

Many factors affect academic performance such as motivation, quality of teaching, and access to materials. The direct link between access to light and higher academic performance is therefore unclear. However, a study from GOGLA published in July 2018 shine new light on the correlation between access to light and education.

84% of households with access to light say they have more time to study with solar technology GOGLA concludes. Overall, the study states:

“On a long note this could equate to better performances in school and potentially improved economic opportunity.”

57 million children are out of school in developing countries

“Education is the key to unlock every locked door. So if you’re educated you’ll get access to other parts of the world and benefit a lot,” Julia from Dadaab refugee camp explains. Julia is, however, one of the lucky few that are enrolled in schools in refugee camps.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 4 is to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning by 2030. Despite the progress, a total of 57 million children remain out of school in developing countries. In refugee camps education is argued to be in a state of “crisis” by the UNHCR.

Refugees enrolled in education VS. global average

Primary school: 61% of refugee children >< 91% of children globally Secondary School: 23% of adolescents in refugee camps >< 84% of adolescents globally Tertiary education: 1% of youths in refugee camps >< 36% of youth globally

UNHCR - Left Behind. Refugee Education in Crisis

In 2022 there were  21.3 million refugees under UNHCR mandate, half of them under the age of 18. For many of these, education is out of reach. Despite the fact that school aged children are supposed to get 200 days of school in a year, a total of 3.5 million children under UNHCR mandate did not attend school at all.

Education Believed to Break Cycle of Poverty

The importance of education is, however, unambiguous:

“Education gives refugee children, adolescents and youth a place of safety amid the tumult of displacement (…) The education of these young refugees is crucial to the peaceful and sustainable development of the places that have welcomed them, and to the future prosperity of their own countries,”

UNHCR - Left Behind. Refugee Education in Crisis

For this reason, education is by the UN considered as “the key that will allow many other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved.”  Completing a quality education is believed to break the cycle of poverty, reduce inequalities and empower people to live more healthy and sustainable lives.

Education is vitally important for the future of children living in refugee camps and developing countries. Living off-grid without the basic need of light, the conditions for achieving SDG number 4; ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning by 2030, is almost impossible to achieve.

Being able to do homework and keep up with studies help decrease the likelihood of dropping out of the educational system, and with a solar lamp at night, important hours of study time is prolonged. In addition to providing students with more options to study, the solar lamp helps improve health conditions and reduce the risk of violence.