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Zambia’s new library is not for books

Ms. Mutinta Michelo teaches 120 students, ages 4-18, at Nyakantaingi Primary School in Rufunsa. She does this all by herself – dividing her time between classes while prefects support her.

Every day SolarAid sees the impact of bringing light to communities living without access to electricity.

Through school campaigns, teachers see the benefits of owning a solar light and usually take stock to bring back to their communities to encourage local families to buy. We thought we could reach everyone with the world’s most affordable solar light and pay-as-you-go options, but there was a problem. Families living in the most disadvantaged communities still could not afford it.

Where Ms. Michelo is from, the families of the children who attend the school are too poor to buy a solar light that costs 53 Kwacha (about £3.47). Ms. Mutinta told our Country Director, “Survival in Nyakantaingi is hard. It’s hard. There is poverty in this area. For other members of the village, they cannot even afford a candle.”

So, understandably, Ms. Michelo decided not to bring solar lights to the school. There was no point if families could not afford to buy them. If SunnyMoney just gave the solar lights away though this would damage the local market, and discourage enterprise. As a result, these families would remain in complete darkness. As Ms. Michelo told us, “…in the evening there is nothing more they can do apart from go back to sleep.”

That is why, with her blessing, SolarAid is bringing a Light Library to Nyakantaingi Primary School and many other schools like Ms. Michelo’s through our Christmas Appeal this year.

Much like checking a book out from a traditional library, students and their families will be able to take a solar light home for as little as one pence per day. Everyone who wants a solar light will be able to borrow one and students will be able to study after dark.

The Light Library is an idea SolarAid first piloted in Senegal in West Africa. Now we plan to use them in Zambia where there are still millions of people without electricity. Innovations such as Light Libraries are needed across the whole country to reach those who cannot afford to buy a solar light.

At a time when we are surrounded by lights that bring a touch of magic to our homes, thank you for helping reach those left in the dark. From everyone here at SolarAid and SunnyMoney Zambia, we wish you a Merry Christmas.

Listen to our interview with Ms. Michelo below. If you would like to help schools like Nyakantaingi Primary School, click here.

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