Solar power transforming rural education in Bukoba District

May 3, 2017

In the northwest of Tanzania, on the western shore of Lake Victoria, is where you will find Bukoba district. It is the capital of the Kagera region, and the administrative seat for Bukoba urban district, with a population estimate of about 100,000 people. Like other districts in northwest Tanzania, there are areas that are locally referred to as ‘mini cities’.  Here people have access to water, electricity, health facilities and adequate transport system; living here will make you feel like you’re in an urban centre. 

However, the situation is quite different for Kamukole villagers living in rural areas of Bukoba district. Life there is a struggle; only the experienced can manage to call Kamukole home. Due to the lack of road infrastructure, getting to Kamukole is a hustle too. If you can’t take cattle trails you won’t make it to the village. As it is not connected to the national grid, the village also has no electricity and when the night comes, even more problems appear. Due to its remoteness and scattered housing, most parts of the village become completely dark at night, and it is within these hours that women and children are at the highest risk of being assaulted.

Health and school facilities are nowhere to be found within the village itself. Villagers get health care from the neighboring Muleba district and it is in this district that villagers send their children to be schooled. Though the primary school is several kilometers away from Kamukole, the learning and teaching environment at the school is not conducive for teaching or learning. There are no houses for teachers and the school buildings are old and dysfunctional. The school lacks electricity, has few classrooms, and lacks adequate number of teachers. These factors all contribute to lower moral for the available teachers which contributes to poor performance among the students.

Realizing the need to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning and attaining the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4): Quality Education, UNDP Tanzania supported a local NGO called the Africa Partnership on Climate Change Coalition (APCCC) under the Capacity Development in The Energy Sector and Extractive Industries (CADESE) project to pioneer a solar project aiming at uplifting teacher’s standard of living and teaching environment by;

  1. Constructing two new classrooms and renovating two old classrooms;
  2. Renovating two staff quarters that houses three teachers;
  3. Installing solar power to staff quarters and the classrooms and other community local group centers and households;
  4. Installing water harvesting tanks for school use and staff use.

Before the solar project was initiated teachers posted to Kamukole were demoralized because of the poor living conditions and the situation of the school. However, following the successful completion of the project in 2016, the teachers are now happy and motivated to teach and adapt to the living conditions. Speaking of the project the head teacher, Mr. Emmanuel Laurian, said; “When I first came here, I thought am being punished and banished. However, now I am hopeful that Kamukole is transforming into a big town despite being in the middle of a forest; we can now access Star Times satellite television and have bought TVs”.

Kamukole has a long history of being among the poorest performing schools in Bukoba district and often ranks last in the whole Kagera region, however with solar power pupils now can study at night. And for the first time in history they have seven children who passed their standard seven exams and have recently joined secondary school, all because they have more time for self-study and the learning and teaching environment has improved tremendously.

The project also trained ten women in solar repairs and maintenance within the project. Aside from fitting solar panels, many of them have already began informally shared their skills with other community members. This aided them to gain greater standing in their communities and now they are playing an increased role in local decision-making.

Local village leader, Mr. Yunus, said that the project has undoubtedly empowered women saying, "Nowadays those women are being heard. Even during meetings, they raise hands to speak and people are paying attention to them and listening to them without any problem; they have been empowered. They are like leaders in the village”.

Speaking during the visits by UNDP Tanzania one of the local village women, who now acts as treasurer of the committee, Ms. Amina Mukasyeka said, "For the first time, we are being respected when we speak, people are listening to what we have to say, and group leaders are setting an example for other girls in our village who want to be like them. Women are the ones that gather the firewood, they fetch the water, they look after the children, they cook and clean. And when they’re involved in decision-making, they take all of that into account."

The Ujirani Mwema Women group, which was formed by the ten women, is now running a canteen, saloon and a shop in the Kinonko centre. This is the center that was built and connected with solar power for local community business purpose, through UNDP support.

This project was implemented under the Capacity Development in The Energy Sector and Extractive Industries (CADESE) programme with support from the Ministry of Energy and Minerals of Tanzania. One of the key objectives of the project is to accelerate achievement of SDG 7 on Energy and the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative through a wider adoption of Rural Energy Technologies (RETs).

For more information, please contact:

Abbas Kitogo, UNDP Practice Specialist on Energy, Climate Change and Extractives.

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