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A SunnyMoney Journey: Drawing with Mr. Hachilangu

Jamie McCloskey

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”, Nelson Mandela’s famous words, displayed on the back of the students’ books in Mulalika Primary School, Chongwe District, Zambia.

A two hour drive out of Lusaka brought us to this rural school and the huge smile of Mr. Hachilangu – the head teacher who has sold solar lights with SunnyMoney to his community for a number of years.

Last week’s blog explained that SunnyMoney works with head teachers to build awareness and demand in solar lights as they are trusted community members. What we did not mention is ‘how’.

A parent’s desire to give their child a good education is the same in Malawi, Uganda and Zambia as it is anywhere else in the world, – a difficulty for many in rural areas is access.

When an affordable solar light is bought by a family in rural Africa, each child is able to study an extra hour per night. By displacing the use of a kerosene lamp, the light is clean and lasts longer. Over 2.4 billion extra study hours have now been made possible by SolarAid – a reason why the Ministry of Education actively supports SolarAid in Malawi, Uganda and Zambia.

Before meeting the students, Mr. Hachilangu invited us into his office to share his thoughts on the impact of solar lights. There was no doubt in his mind that solar lights had improved his students’ performance – as well as each of their families’ lives.

This is where the ‘how’ comes in and Mr. Hachilangu embodied it. The solar lights are presented to the students and parents of students as study lights – a tool to improve each child’s education. Once bought, the whole family uses this small, affordable solar light and they begin to experience its many benefits together. No longer is kerosene needed and demand grows when this story is shared.

We wanted to hear these stories. Who best to hear these stories from than the students? Mr. Hachilangu guided us into a class of students who all had solar lights at home. Nancy Muyeleka, my colleague from SunnyMoney Zambia, was translating for the younger students and, after introductory discussion, we set the students a task.

The task was for each student to draw how their solar light is used at home. To make things exciting, there would be prizes for the best three. Admittedly, I did sit down to take part in the competition. Much to my disappointment (and the entertainment of the students), I did not take a share of the spoils.

Every other drawing, however, was a contender. With every student having to stand up and describing what they drew, the panel (Nick – CEO, Nancy & me) decided. The winners were:

Sungani, Grade 9
Ricky, Grade 9
Hannah, Grade 9

The impact stats we so often share are just perfectly complemented by these drawings from children, who were in no way told what to draw, honestly sharing their own experiences.

With the celebrations of the class and a thank you from us and Mr. Hachilangu, we were once again invited into his office. Although once a part of our School Campaigns, Mr Hachilangu is now part of SunnyMoney Zambia’s Agent Network.

The School Campaigns is how we first reach communities but they are too expensive and time consuming to conduct repeatedly in the area. However, we are striving to afford them in the areas of Zambia where they have not taken place. Where they have, the key next step is the Agent Network.

Meeting Mr. Hachilangu and being allowed into each student’s home with a drawing showed the real impact our Schools Campaign has had. Although we have been faced with many troubles, many head teachers and Agents have been flourishing. While I am sharing this story of success with you, our SunnyMoney teams have been constantly using these experiences with their expertise to improve and develop the next iteration of our Agent Network – one of a few exciting pieces of news I will be sharing over the coming weeks.