Light for Education (LFE) is the name of a project that aims to provide solar lamps for rural school children. It is meant to promote education and save children from the toxic fumes of kerosene lamps. Supported by schools, government, rural banks, donors and the Technology Alumni Association (TAA) of IIT, it has reached 35,000 beneficiaries across the state of Karnataka.
Utkal Mohanty, President, Technology Alumni Association of IIT, Kharagpur says, “We have been holding the ‘Light For Education’ concert for the last three years. We find the twin objective of promoting sustainable energy and rural education worthy of our support. The programme is being implemented very successfully on the ground and it gives lot of confidence to donors and sponsors.”
The Bangalore based Solar Electric Light Company (Selco), which was co-founded by IIT graduate Harish Hande, has innovated a Solar Power Lamp, which can be used by students at home to study under brighter light conditions. An 18-year-old enterprise, the company has been providing renewable energy services to poor and underprivileged communities in Karnataka, Kerala and Gujarat.
Their target is to distribute one lakh solar lamps by 2020.
Rs 1,700 for a lamp
The cost of each lamp is approximately Rs 1,700 and the villagers are expected to contribute `200 in 3-4 monthly installments to school authorities. According to Selco, this is further utilised for repairs and maintenance of the solar lamps, battery, solar panels.
The solar panel and charging stations are installed in rural school buildings while the solar lamp and battery pack is given to students. The school, in fact, is the charging station for the solar lamps. The students bring the solar lamp battery to the school for charging in the morning and carry them back in the afternoon to study at home with their brothers or sisters. This also increases attendance of children at schools, add company officials.
For a majority of children, studying during the day is not an option as in most rural communities, children have to spend a lot of their precious reading hours in the daytime to help with the family chores. As the sun sets and the homes get dark, candles or a kerosene lantern is lit to provide light in the home. Unfortunately, the light from these lamps is quite inadequate. Also, children end up inhaling toxic smoke while studying. So, Selco decided to join hands with others to provide solar lamps to light the paths to the children’s future.
A recent survey conducted across 18 schools covering 800 of the 2000 beneficiaries reveal that the students are benefiting from LFE as most of them have eliminated the use of kerosene and candles for studying. “We use it only for our studies and have not faced any problems with battery or the lamp itself,” says a student.
Students in Muthur village, Chikaballapur taluk were given solar lamps under Harish Hande’s ‘Kalikegagi Belaku’ project. It is an innovative programme where a central solar charging station was installed in the school and each student provided with a pocket size, light weight portable battery and LED study light.
“Students can carry the pocket size battery to school every day for charging. Against the backdrop of frequent power shutdown in rural areas, the programme provides a wonderful opportunity for children to boost their academic performance at no great cost. Moreover, it engenders in them the awareness of renewable energy alternatives to the conventional grid system,” says an energy expert.
The children cite that they are saving `50 every month. The LFE project has managed to increase the awareness of renewable energy among the children.
More than 90 per cent of the beneficiaries are now more aware of renewable energy.
The innovators say that with the launch of Light for Education, parents have been pushing their children to go to school as they see more value in their education now.The LFE project has the potential to impact the lives of thousands of students,” says a company official.