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Portable solar lights improve academic performance

Reading, writing and arithmetic, known as the three 3Rs, are the foundational skills that every child needs to succeed in their educational journey.  But ensuring that children can master those skills through practice and reinforcement of what they learn in the classroom at home, requires access to resources that most of us take for granted – such as light.

Since 2018,  So They Can and Solar Buddy have distributed 10,333 portable solar lights to STD 1 and 2 students (50% girls) in all of the 28 primary schools that So They Can partners with in Tanzania. The portable device brings light to homes that have no electricity, benefitting primary-aged children and their entire families.

This month our Monitoring and Evaluation Team caught up with some of the students, their teachers and parents, to see how the use of their Solar Buddy at home has changed their learning experience. It’s no surprise that kids have benefited enormously, and so too has their entire household with access to a reliable and healthy light source that replaces kerosene lights and candles.

100% of parents and teachers reported that the solar lights have increased children’s motivation and commitment to learn, and exam results provide the proof. A random sample of 24 (14 boys, 10 girls) primary students from 6 schools showed that the number of students who scored grade A (41-50) in reading, numeracy and writing significantly increased from 8% in 2022 (STD 1) to 46% in 2023 (STD 2). The number of students scoring grade D (0-20) in reading, writing and numeracy significantly reduced from 29% in 2022 (STD 1) to 8% (STD 2) in 2023. Whilst these improved results can be attributed more broadly to So They Can’s holistic approach to improve the learning and teaching environment in schools, from anecdotal evidence we know that the solar lights are a key factor.

Jamali, a STD 1 student from Mamire Primary School, is one of those many students. We interviewed his mum, Hadija, who is delighted that her son’s engagement with books and his ability to read has improved. ‘

Before, his school results were not very good, because he couldn’t study at home, we had no reliable source of light. He was ranked 35 (out of 72 students), but since he got his solar light he is ranked 14! I am so proud.’ Marina’s child, Betina, who studies at Galapo Primary School, feels the same. ‘My daughter spends an average of 1 hour a day studying at home. Her class ranking has improved from 28 (out of 73 students) in STD 1, to 13 (out of 73) in STD 2. She is now a Grade A student.’ 

Now, with improved 3R skills, teachers have more time in the classroom to refocus learning. Mariana, a teacher from Gallapo Primary School shares that, ‘since my students have been given the lights, their awareness of learning has grown enormously. Every student has increased their effort in what they learn through making references in the evening at home. This has helped to improve the students performance and reduce the number of students who need help with the 3R skills, which saves me teaching time in the classroom.’

These overall results are from a sample assessment of 59 recipients from 6 primary schools that was conducted in April 2023. The interviewees included: 24 (14 boys: 10 girls) STD 2 students; 29 (2 male: 27 female) parents; 6 (2 male: 4 female) teachers. The random sample results are based on results from the final STD 1 exam in November 2022, and the results from the STD 2 national 3Rs assessment in April 2023.

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