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Bring the light | The impacts of solar lamps on learning

If there is no access to proper lighting, how are students supposed to do homework and study? As about four fifths of rural Tanzanian households do not have access to electricity (and the health hazards of kerosene have been widely documented), solar light appears to be a sustainable, clean, and affordable source of light.  

In this context, Twaweza partnered with SolarAid in 2011 to subsidize and distribute 100,000 solar lights to secondary school students and teachers in Tanzania with the goal of providing a healthy source of light primarily for studying. After two years of the partnership, we wanted to find out if the lights were still functioning, what their primary use was, and whether there was any effect of the light on studying.

In 2013, Twaweza conducted a mixed-method survey to measure the effectiveness of the initiative. The study suggests that just over half of the lights sold remain without any functional problems, and that students indeed are the primary users of the light. The study further suggests the lights have contributed to improved studying outcomes, including the ability to concentrate more when doing homework, and ability to complete homework. The solar lamps are used by multiple people within the household and for a variety of other chores (cooking rates as one of the top chores), but one of the primary uses of the lights is for studying.

Taking advantage of the monitoring exercise, we also inquired about three other issues: the recall and engagement of a booklet on education produced by Twaweza and packaged together with the lights; a series of exercise books for students which had the Uwezo literacy/numeracy test printed inside; and the recall of the Twaweza mass-media “Ni Sisi” campaign. We found out that while students tended to read the booklet and knew of the Uwezo test, there was very little engagement with either the booklet or the exercise books on behalf of the teachers. We were also pleased to find out that overall 36% of the students recalled the Ni Sisi campaign.

Read the report of the entire study.

Read more: education monitoring Solar Aid Tanzania

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