Lanterns for Learning

October 09, 2019

When the Ismaili family first moved into their new home, they relied on a single, smokey, kerosene lamp for lighting. Once the sun set, they had to do activities in relative darkness. Read here how solar light transformed their lives. 

We couldn’t read at night. Using a single kerosene lamp, we cooked, went to bed, and walked around our neighborhood in darkness. We couldn’t even make our bed at night because the room was always too dark,” says Saumu Ismaili. 

Saumu and Luseriani, her younger brother, are raised by their mother Teresia in Marwa, a rural Tanzanian village. After the death of their father in 2006, Teresia rebuilt her family’s life in her own father’s neighborhood. From constructing a beautiful home by hand to cattle farming for income, Teresia is the backbone of her family.

Using a single kerosene lamp, we cooked, went to bed, and walked around our neighborhood in darkness.

ismaili family close up

In collaboration with women like Teresia and several other organizations,  Solar Sister recently launched Lanterns for Learning, a 12-month pilot program. The partnership organizations include: Marwa Village, the Kilimanjaro Hope Organization (KiHO), the Signify Foundation, and the Sustainable and Resilient Tanzania Community program of the University of Dodoma and Ohio State University.

Life-long learning and impact

In March, the program distributed nearly 500 Philips solar lights to students and families, including the Ismaili family. Nearly 40 additional large solar home lighting systems were distributed to teachers, classrooms, medical staff, and Village Council Offices, where they will be used to support critical educational, medical, and social services for the community. 

Lanterns for Learning promotes solar technology use in Marwa village in order to increase educational performance and lifelong learning. Research by Santa Clara University has shown the important role of solar lighting in improving educational outcomes in Tanzania. Over 90% of parents interviewed by Santa Clara reported an increase in their child’s academic performance due to solar light ownership. Having access to a reliable lighting source increases the amount of study hours that children have to complete their school work. More importantly, the increased brightness of solar lights allows multiple students to use one light and study collaboratively.  

With a very bright light…we see each other when we sit together for dinner at night, I read story books, do school homework, and teach my young brother how to read and write. 

Increased education is not the only expected outcome of the Lanterns for Learning pilot. Through the distribution of the lights, the program aims to increase community awareness about the benefits of solar lighting and the work of Solar Sister Entrepreneurs.

Building the local market for solar

By distributing the initial solar lights through the Lanterns for Learning program and through other awareness-raising activities conducted by KiHO, Solar Sister seeks to increase knowledge of community members about the dangers of kerosene and the benefits of using solar. Through testimonials from those who received the lights, Solar Sister plans to build the market for solar in surrounding communities. 

While the impacts of the program won’t fully come to fruition until next year, many families like the Ismaili family now have access to reliable lighting. 

“Our house looks so clean! With a very bright light we are able to do many things at night. We see each other when we sit together for dinner at night, I read story books, do school homework, and teach my young brother how to read and write,” says Saumu.

Tangible impacts

Teresia notes that she no longer has to walk to shops to charge her cell phone because she can do it right from home for free.

Mama Namayani, another family who is participating in the Lanterns for Learning Project , agrees: “The solar lights have not only liberated our children to study at night, but also light our homes while cooking, making beds, and birthing. We also have light while taking care of sick children at night and while walking to the shop when it’s dark.”

From increasing study hours to allowing families to enjoy dinner together after the sun sets,  the Lanterns for Learning stories suggest that solar lights are much more than just a light. 

Ismaili family

The project will measure the impact of solar products on children’s education through school attendance, academic performance, solar technology engagement, and also sales of solar technology. Initial results and lessons learned from the pilot will be available early next year.

In the meantime, according to the people of Marwa village, the new solar energy technology has transformed their lives. They are using the solar lights in private homes, schools, and public spaces, to the benefit of the whole community.