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Kate Jongbloed

Solar lanterns light up girls’ homework sessions in Laos and Zimbabwe

Kate Jongbloed

Young girl looks at solar lamps designed by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson.

Studying after sunset in Zimbabwe

The sun has just gone down and Mary stokes the fire to light up the room a little. The ambitious 12 year-old from Zimbabwe wants to be an engineer. Today she is preparing for an important end of term test, but here at home she squints to read and her eyes water from the smoke.

Around 1.6 billion people worldwide live without access to electricity, relying on kerosene lanterns for lighting – a method that is both expensive and a health hazard. A 10 year-old doing her homework in the evening to the light of a wick-based kerosene lantern breathes in pollution equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes a day!

“The cost of kerosene per month is high, and communities are not encouraged to cut firewood, so many children are finding it hard to do their homework and study at night,” said Plan Zimbabwe Alumni Network coordinator, Edwin Sithole.

Things are set to improve for students like Mary who live “off the grid” (without electricity). Plan partnered with Danish artist Olafur Eliasson to create a new solar-powered lamp. The solar lantern can save a family that is dependent on kerosene 90% of what it usually spends for lighting, while providing ten times brighter light. After charging in the sun for five hours, the lamp provides five hours of light. With safer, cheaper lighting, communities who live without power will find it easier to study, cook, eat, read and write after dark. Two thousand lamps are set to be distributed to school children in urban and rural schools around the country.

Laotian student uses a solar lantern to study.

Lighting up school dormitories in Laos

Fourteen-year-old Buasao, from Laos, used to spend two hours walking to school each day. The walks were exhausting and her parents often worried for her safety as she travelled to and from school.

Brand new dormitories built by Plan close to her school solved Buasao’s transportation challenge, but lack of electricity remained a problem.

Without light, it was almost impossible for Buasao and other students to get on with their homework and other activities.  Since families in the remote area often rely on gasoline lanterns and torches come nightfall, which are expensive and can cause gasoline fires, another solution was needed.

Plan responded by introducing solar lanterns for boarding students. As well as lowering costs and improving safety, light from the lanterns also helps students have more time to study in the evening.

The future looks bright for these two girls – and their communities!

Help light up even more futures! Send a Girl to School now.