Inequality in Energy Access in the Education Sector in Malawi

October 16th, 2014

For many rural schools in Malawi, access to reliable energy sources remains a pipe dream. It is estimated that only 7% of the population in urban areas has access to electricity, whilst in the rural areas, only 1% has access. The situation is the same in many countries within the southern Africa region where lack of access to electricity remains a major barrier to social and economic development. One of the sectors that has been adversely affected is the education sector. Without access to electricity, children often do not have the light required to study properly. They also have no access to computer-based learning resources that would enhance their learning opportunities. Why then should this issue of inequality in energy access in education sector be addressed?

  • Students from rural schools always lag behind when it comes to technology. Those in urban areas are always ahead of times. Most gadgets that may assist school children needs electricity in order to operate for example computers and internet.
  • Students need lights in order to read and study at night or even during the day when its cloudy and dark.
  • Teachers are limited in terms of teaching aids/resources. They do not have access to computers, projectors and the Internet among other resources. These assist to give quality education to the students.
  • Schools fail to attract well trained staff because they shun places without electricity.
  • Teachers cannot plan their work during the night most of the work has to be done during the day hence leaving other areas to suffer.

It is therefore evident that the issue of in equality in energy access in the education sector has to be addressed. All pupils deserve the best education in a good environment possible. It is encouraging to note that energy access initiatives being implemented by Practical Action are providing hope for schools in rural areas through micro-hydro schemes. In Malawi in Mulanje District, the Bondo micro hydro scheme has transformed the community in that area.

Utilising the vast water resources which are abundant on Mount Mulanje in Malawi, the micro hydro scheme is generating electricity using water from Lichenya River. The scheme was constructed under the Catalysing Modern Energy Service Delivery to Marginal Communities in Southern Africa project implemented by Practical Action Southern Africa in partnership with Mulanje Renewable Energy Agency (MuREA).

The micro hydro scheme is now providing electricity to households, businesses and social services such as schools and the health centre. Kabichi Primary School which serves Bondo, has an enrolment of at least 1,700 pupils. The electricity grid from the micro hydro scheme has already been installed at the school and wiring within the classrooms is underway. The teachers and pupils at the school are excited by the prospect of having electricity at the school.Electrification of the school will enable pupils to have access to computer based learning resources resulting in improved pass rates.

“We will also have improved lighting for the classroom which will also facilitate evening classes”, said Jonathan Marimbo, the school headmaster. “More importantly, the coming of electricity will ensure that the school will be able to attract and retain teaching staff”, he added.

Charity Richard a standard seven pupil at the school could not contain her joy. “I cannot wait for the lights to be switched on, at our school. This is encouraging and I believe that some girls who have left school will be motivated to come back because of this development”.

Access to electricity is also expected to spur economic development and growth for Bondo through initiatives that promote productive use of energy.    

One response to “Inequality in Energy Access in the Education Sector in Malawi”

  1. Syed Says:

    This is good news. Yes, the panels of today might not be very efiicfent. However, as it is being use more often in many homes or countries, there will be a continuous development making it more efiicfent than what they are today.Take for instance computers, in the 60s computers were as big as a house while performing very slow. Look at computers today, they’re thin, portable, every efiicfent and extremely fast.I see solar energy development in the same way.

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