Anju is a senior pupil at Project Mala school Guria. A shy girl, she is unwilling to push herself forward in school and so I had not had many opportunities to get to know her well. In September, however, when I visited the schools I noticed that Anju was performing particularly well in class, consistently gaining marks in the top 20%. I was particularly impressed when I learned that Anju is one of the pupils who has no electricity at home and therefore cannot study after dark. As a girl, and the eldest of several sisters, she is responsible for helping her mother with domestic chores before and after school and as a result she and her sister, who is in the Middle school, often find that they are unable to revise important school work, complete their homework or study for exams. The only light available to the family is from one kerosene lantern and, as you can see, it does not give enough light to read by.
In spite of this, both sisters are doing very well at school, but it is a constant battle for them to keep on top of their work.
We had been experimenting with a type of solar powered lantern that we thought might benefit children without electricity. Indeed, so unreliable is the power supply in rural Uttar Pradesh that even homes which have a power supply frequently find themselves without electricity for days at a time and, if they can afford it, rely on battery powered lanterns which they recharge when they do have electricity. So we feel that most of the children in our schools would benefit from solar powered lamps.
After some research we found what we consider to be the perfect reading lamp, from an interesting company, Observing i. This is a venture that aims to bring practical, affordable solar power solutions to the villages of India and their lighting systems are extremely well thought out. The lamp we have chosen is a good example. While other lanterns shine out horizontally, making it difficult to focus the light on your work, the lamp from Observing i is brilliantly constructed on a stand, with a round headlamp that can be rotated to shine just where it is needed. The light is bright and clear so that the children can study without straining their eyes.
The headlamp can be detached from the stand and hung up by its strap to give a light anywhere in the house, for cooking or other household tasks as well. The elastic strap is also designed so that the lamp can be worn on the arm or wrist so that it will light your path at night (to the field latrines, for example, or to tend the animals). It is equally useful to alert traffic when the children are walking beside the road and it can be put on a bicycle and used as a cycle lamp.
Anju was one of the first pupils to be given one of the new solar powered lamps and in this video you can see what a difference it has made to her studies.
We have given out 15 lamps to the pupils we feel need and deserve them most, but we hope in future to be able to provide every senior and Middle school pupil with a lamp. Being able to study after school doesn't just improve the academic standards of a single child; the entire class benefits when every pupil is able to keep up with their peers.
There are other benefits though. With solar lamps, a family without electricity is no longer reliant on expensive, dangerous kerosene lamps. Apart from the effect of fumes on the inhabitants of small mud huts, kerosene lamps often cause fires, and of course affect the environment too.
For a donation of £25 you can buy a lamp for a Project Mala pupil. Click here to donate and shine a light for a pupil like Anju.