Solar lights up new hope for remote school

The classrooms and teacher's residence are now electrified by solar power.

It’s September 2014. Joyce Tangwara has just arrived at her new teaching assignment at Nyatsato Primary School.

She is devastated at having to adjust to her new environment. Unlike in her hometown of Norton, she now has the additional tasks of looking for, and cooking with firewood. Water access is no longer convenient. She cannot listen to the radio or watch her favourite TV show. To call her family at home, she has to walk some distance to find pockets of mobile network which is often erratic.

Facts About Rushinga Pilot Solar Project

  • Pilot solar project was carried out under the program framework, Strengthening National Capacity of Climate Change in Zimbabwe, in cooperation between Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate and UNDP Zimbabwe.
  • Feasibility studies were carried out in November, 2015. The installations was done over 7 days in January 2016.
  • Installation included training of school staff to ensure that they understood the system and were able to use and maintain it.
  • Solar system includes a 2,4 kW system that powers inside and outside lighting for two classroom blocks, as well as provide power to run a computer lab as well as the schools office computer.
  • Setup also includes a 1,68 kW power system that provides for lightning and light electrical gadgets (e.g. TV and radio) for 6 teachers houses.
  • The total cost of the systems including all equipment, installation materials, labour and training of school staff and management was $USD 42,180

Nyatsato Primary School is in Rushinga District, Mashonaland Central, about 240km away from Harare. A few kilometres away from the school is Zimbabwe’s boundary with Mozambique. There is no electricity or conveniently taped water. Poor roads make it difficult to access. The classrooms and teacher’s accommodation have deteriorated and need urgent repair.

Overall, Joyce faces many hardships in her new job.

Now, fast-forward a year after arriving at Nyatsato Primary School, Joyce is teaching her Grade 2 class about electricity. She asks the students where electricity that is charging her phone comes from, to which one eager student replies “Harare!” Joyce then instructs the whole class to neatly file outside where she proceeds to give her students a practical lesson on solar energy. For many of the students, this is the first time they are experiencing electricity.

This is one of the many benefits the solar-generated electricity has brought to the students, teachers and greater community at Nyatsato School.

“I can now assess my students work at night. Previously I would have to end lessons prematurely to go through their books,” says Joyce on the benefits the of the solar power installation. She adds “I can now give the students even more attention during the day.”

Joyce adds that the students have realised the greatest benefit from the solar installation. “They now also being exposed to more learning material. One of my colleagues owns a laptop which he uses as a teaching aid in his classes. Even students from surrounding schools also benefit from using the lit classrooms to do studies at night.”

Teachers and the community have also realised value from using solar energy. Joyce and her colleagues are now saving up to buy radios and a communal television and refrigerator. Savings are being realised as less money is used for paraffin and candles.

In addition, one of the teachers is complementing his studies using the light to study after hours. The community has also expressed interest in taking literacy lessons after their children’s lessons are finished.

Joyce Tangwara is still far from the comfort level she would like. But the installation of the solar system has removed a few of her hardships and has improved her experience from the time she began teaching at Nyatsato Primary School. Overall, the environmental benefits of the new solar system installed at the school are tremendous.