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Keeping the lights on at schools in India

Lighting means poor children can study longer and get the grades
Lighting means poor children can study longer and get the grades

In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, new technology is allowing children to stay on after school to study.

In the Indian province of Andhra Pradesh, many remote areas suffer from an erratic power supply. Even when towns and villages are connected to the power grid, electricity may only be on six to seven hours in the daytime. A lack of power can therefore shorten the productive hours in family homes and make it hard for their children to study in the evening.

Now, new solar technology is being introduced in schools by the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), a government organisation which has been set up to improve the welfare of remote communities. In 59 schools, the ITDA is installing a solar photovaltaic mini-plant which stores electricity as a back-up power system. This means that extra classes can be held after school to help pupils prepare for their exams.

A worthwhile investment

Two schools to benefit are located deep in the Eastern Ghat mountain range, around 750km from Hyderabad city. Speaking to the news agency Alertnet, a teacher at one of these schools explains “most of my students come from underprivileged families [and] it is important that they pass their exams and go on to college”. With the extra solar power to supplement the grid supply, the teacher knows that she can schedule study sessions at the end of the day or her pupils can stay on after the school if they need to work in the evenings.

With a deficit in its energy producing capability, India is keen to tap into renewable energy. Off-grid solar sources are therefore given a 30% subsidy by the government, which rises to 70% for marginalised communities. However, the initial cost of setting up solar sources is still very high and in the poorest states often requires the investment of non-governmental organisations or agencies.

Two key elements – water and light

In addition to electricity, the ITDA is providing each of the 59 schools in Andhra Pradesh with a solar-run water pump. In one school which already has a pump, an eight-year-old boarder tells Alertnet that being able to drink a glass of water whenever she wants is far from her experience at home. In her own village, Laxmi, has to fetch water in a pitcher from a nearby pond and she describes the ascent back up to her house with the heavy water as “very difficult”.

Such a simple statement bears testimony to how investment in the poorest communities of India can transform lives. The government therefore hopes that its significant subsidies in renewable energy, especially for remote regions, will provide the incentives needed for an expansion in the use of solar technology. This will not only serve to boost education and living standards, but also herald a greater focus on clean energy and environmental conservation.

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