Lighting up the school, illuminating futures

Photo credit: Vincent Reynaud-Lacroze

Without access to electricity, primary school children in West Africa study in difficult conditions. But now, thanks to a simple solar solution, Aide et Action is lighting up the education of thousands of children in rural areas of Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Togo.

In West Africa, 9 out of 10 schools are not electrified. To remedy this situation, Aide et Action has two programmes (A light for Africa and Enlightened School, Resource Centre for Quality Education) which aim to bring light into classrooms in rural areas in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal and Togo.

A win-win initiative

In these countries, the vast majority of schools have no electricity, which places a heavy burden on the daily lives of students and teachers. Poor visibility, extreme heat, lack of modern teaching aids... There are many disadvantages resulting from this lack. In order to improve the school environment and therefore the children's results, we intervene in 120 primary schools, which we electrify and equip with adapted material. To do this, we install solar panels that bring light into the classrooms and thus change everyone's daily life.

Light is a favourable factor for teaching, says Narcisse Ouédraogo, headmaster of the Tambao school in Burkina Faso. The electrification of our school by Aide et Action is very beneficial. It benefits everyone: teachers, students and even parents who no longer have to pay for petrol for their children. 

A context for success

Indeed, teachers who take advantage of electricity to stay late in class can now prepare their worksheets and correct pupils' homework books before going home in the evening. They can also organise after-school tutoring for students in difficulty, especially those in exam classes. And finally, they can charge their mobile phones during the day and thus remain more easily reachable by their relatives, who are often physically distant. " With electrification, we are more motivated to teach and support students to succeed, says Seydou Tienon, director of the Panassin school in Burkina Faso. Teachers from schools not benefiting from the project wish to join those that are. "

The students, on the other hand, can study in a much more favourable environment. " In class, I can see the board well now. I can easily copy the lessons. Before the lighting, I sometimes had to come closer to see what was written The installation of the fans also allows the classrooms to be ventilated, where the temperature is usually high and hinders the children's concentration," says Idrissa Belem, a pupil in the elementary school of Kirabouto in Burkina Faso. In addition, the installation of fans allows for the ventilation of classrooms where the usually high temperature hinders the concentration of children.

Impact inside and outside the school

In addition to the electrification of buildings, Aide et Action is equipping schools with solar chargeable lamps. These are given to students in exam classes who live far from the school and who cannot return at night to learn their lessons. Organised in groups according to their living areas, the pupils gather around the lamps to work, then bring them back to school the next day to recharge them. This initiative helps develop group work and is a great incentive for pupils to help each other.

New opportunities for communities

A final attractive aspect of the project is the provision of computers in schools to introduce pupils to basic computer skills. For many, this is the first time they have had access to a computer and this represents a certain pride. " My older brothers go to the cyber café to do research on the computer, but they are not very good at Word. I was lucky enough to attend the computer literacy course. That's why they now ask me to show them some of the functions for entering documents and I'm very happy. "Rose Toffa, a fifth-grade student at the Gbekon/B public primary school in Porto-Novo, Benin, says. 

In short, our electrification programmes not only improve learning and teaching conditions in schools, but also provide new opportunities for communities. A global impact underlined by Claude Ahimakin, headmaster of the Hahamè primary school in Benin: " I can say today that we are getting maximum benefit from the solar electrification of our school. For example, it has provided a lot of facilities for students to learn and do exercises in the evening. We also have the possibility to work under the light, during bad weather, by closing all the windows. Solar electrification and computer equipment further motivates students to be interested in new technologies and enables them to be equipped before going to college. Some of the electrified classrooms are also used for adult literacy classes in the locality. My thanks to Aide et Action for implementing these life-saving actions in schools ."

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