When we visited Oloikarere Primary school in Narok county, we had to wait more than two hours for the Headteacher and students to arrive. They had been to a games tournament at a nearby school. When I say nearby, it was 8km away. And they had to walk. So after a day of classes, the students had walked 16km and played sports for several hours. And yet they still managed to give us a wonderfully warm welcome. It was certainly worth the wait.
Oloikarere Primary School is in the Suswa Zone of Narok County, Kenya. The school has 50 girls who board and 200 boys who are day-schoolers. The school has a 15W solar system installed in two classrooms. The school community and parents raised the necessary funds to purchase the system, and it was an investment which is already reaping rewards. “Parents have already seen the benefits. They are very happy not to be paying for paraffin. The students are also very happy and excited.”
Mr Mahoy and the SunnyMoney team in one of the solar classrooms
Mr Mahoy knew that he wanted solar for his school. Some months before he had bought a solar lamp from one of the petrol stations near the school, and quickly saw the potential for solar on a bigger scale. When the SunnyMoney team arrived in Narok, he immediately set about gathering the funds.
Before this, there was no electricity. The school would provide paraffin for the students but it was very expensive: “We would use roughly 10 litres per week, and you know, sometimes the money was not there. Solar is there 24 hours. It has saved us lots of money”.
Students studying under the solar charged lights
Health-wise, solar has made a big difference to the students. Kerosene produces harmful gases which affect their eyes. “With solar power, there is no irritation and pupils are healthier”. There is also no smoke to get into their lungs. Plus solar is much safer. “Paraffin causes accidents. If the matchbox is used carelessly by the pupils, they might burn.”
Educational performance has already improved after one term. As it is only the girls who use the solar-lit classrooms (because they are boarders), for the first time in school history some of the girls got better marks than the boys.
The system is currently meeting their needs because the girls can study at night and in the early morning. However he is already planning to buy more systems. “I would like one for the girl’s dormitory. Also for my office – you can see, here I am, the Headmaster, sitting in the dark!” However his plans will have to wait some time until the parents and the school can afford it.
Mr Mahoy using a solar lamp to work in his office