In Africa, as elsewhere, access to quality education is one of the keys to development. However, Africa, especially its rural areas, still needs more reliable energy infrastructure.

Even today, less than 50% of the rural population has access to electricity, directly affecting rural schools. This significantly limits students’ study time, hindering their success rates. Beyond the impact on learning quality, the lack of electricity also reduces the use of modern technologies, preventing students from learning about new technology-related subjects.

Mini-solar grids offer a promising solution to these challenges by providing sustainable and reliable energy. These systems can help reduce educational disparities and allow every child to learn in better conditions and succeed.

1/ Access to Energy: A Current Challenge for Education in Africa

According to the World Bank, the percentage of the rural population in Africa with access to electricity varies significantly, often well below 50%. This lack of access severely impacts many schools, greatly limiting their ability to use modern technologies. Without electricity, teachers cannot incorporate essential digital teaching tools to enhance students’ learning.

The lack of access to electricity exacerbates the challenging living conditions for students and teachers in rural areas. Many rely on traditional energy sources like kerosene lamps and diesel generators, which are expensive and dangerous. According to the AECF, kerosene lamps, and diesel generators are responsible for numerous fires and pose health risks due to toxic fume emissions. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions from these lamps far exceed health standards, causing respiratory illnesses among users (AECF) (LBL Energy Technologies Area).

In some regions, the absence of electricity has led to higher school dropout rates. A study showed that in rural schools without access to electricity, attendance and success rates are significantly lower than those equipped with reliable electrical systems (Brookings). Students often have to work during daylight, and those who help their families during the day have very little time for their studies, severely compromising their education.

Finally, the absence of electricity limits study hours to daylight, significantly reducing the time available for learning. This limitation directly impacts students’ academic performance and success rates. Students cannot study after nightfall, which is particularly problematic for those who must help their families during the day and only have the evening to devote to their studies.

2/ Mini Solar Grids: A Transformative Solution for Education in Africa

A mini solar grid is an autonomous system that uses solar panels to generate and distribute electricity. It is particularly well-suited for rural areas, offering a reliable, sustainable, and less expensive energy source than diesel generators.

Impact in East Africa

In some rural schools, mini solar grids have significantly improved learning conditions by extending study hours and increasing student engagement, thereby boosting success rates.

Uganda

A study indicates that mini-solar grids have transformed education in rural schools in Uganda. These installations enable students to study in the evening, increasing school success rates by 35%. Additionally, energy costs for the school have decreased by 50%, allowing these funds to be reallocated to other educational needs.

Tanzania

The Ensol project has electrified over 3,000 homes and several schools in Tanzania, benefiting around 2,000 students. A school with 900 students has seen improved grades due to extended study hours

Mali

In Mali, the Rural Energy Services Foundation (FRES) has installed mini solar grids for approximately 9,600 households, benefiting 1,500 students. This electrification has enabled children to study in the evening, increasing school success rates by 25%. Additionally, communities have reduced their domestic energy costs by 30% thanks to solar energy【RVO.nl】.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

The IFC’s Scaling Mini-Grid (SMG) program is mobilizing $400 million to electrify rural areas in the DRC through mini-solar grids. This program plans to install 180 MW of solar capacity to provide reliable electricity to 1.5 million people, including schools. Access to electricity could increase school enrollment rates by 20%, improve learning conditions, and reduce energy costs.

Mini solar grids are a key solution to overcoming energy and educational challenges in Africa, providing reliable and sustainable energy that transforms students’ learning experience in rural areas.

Growth Energy is committed to developing mini solar grid projects in partnership with local and international organizations across Africa. Our projects maximize social and educational impact, improving access to education and promoting the economic development of rural communities.

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