Why we’re investing in solar lamps

After many visits to students over the last few years in very different regions of Sri Lanka, our team realised that too many families rely heavily on kerosene lamps for their daily housework – and homework. We realised that the lack of access to electricity was posing a challenge to our students and their families, especially in the areas badly affected during the war. Studying in the dark at night is the reality for many students in Sri Lanka, as daylight ends at 6pm throughout the year in Sri Lanka.
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[Picture above: Lynnette, from our UK team with Mahesh, from our Sri Lankan office and a PEF student at her house, after they delivered her a solar torch. Their journey from Colombo involved a 6.5 hour bus ride and 2 hours in a Tuk Tuk plus an hour trek through the jungle. Every day she travels 23kms to and from school. Proporta staff split the cost of a bike between them and delivered it during the next trip.]

After some further research, we realised that this was something that was worth pursuing. Lack of electricity and over-reliance on kerosene was a recurring theme across the country.

While the PEF could not yet give the students and their families access to electricity (we are working on it), our emphasis on providing inexpensive, simple and practical solutions for the students meant that we could help them in a different way: with solar lighting, students would be able to study even after 6pm without having to expose themselves to the use of kerosene.

We did some research on the subject and found a solar lamp certified by the World Bank and produced in Australia by Flexiway. We chose it for its simple design, its good capacity (charging vs hours of light provided) and its relatively low cost. We have treated the first year of this project as a pilot round which has proved to be so successful that we will continue to supply solar lamps to those of our selected students who lack access to electricity and rely on kerosene for their studies.

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[Pictures above: A PEF student studying with a solar torch and another with Vipula, from our Sri Lankan team, presenting a torch to a PEF student outside her house.]

It is also our plan to incorporate the subject of electricity and lighting into our application form in order for us to easily identify those students who potentially need help with lighting. When we visit the students to assess them for the scholarship application, we will then be able to take this into consideration and donate the solar lamps to those who need them.

Our team in Sri Lanka have received many letters from students and their families who have written on receipt of the lamps to say thanks, and to let us know how happy they are. Because the PEF takes a practical view of the work that we do, we will continue to look into ways in which the PEF can help current and future students with practical and simple solutions to the challenges they face on a daily basis – challenges that make their life as students difficult, impossible or even unsafe.

Kerosene statistics from around the world…

  • 4 billion people across the world live without access to grid electricity
  • 8 – 10 hours of charging the lamp creates 5 – 6 hours of light
  • According to the World Bank, 780 million women and children inhale a volume of smoke equivalent to two packs of cigarettes a day from kerosene lamps
  • 60% of female lung cancer victims across the developing world are non-smokers
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