The remote Okahozu Primary School, located some 40km outside Opuwo, in the Epupa Constituency of Kunene region, is one of the lucky few off-grid schools in Namibia that now have access to electricity, thanks to the intervention of the GIZ Green People’s Energy (GPE) project.
The GPE Project Team, led by Rodney Seibeb, one of the project’s Technical Advisors, conducted assessments at 20 rural schools, in six regions, namely Kunene, Omusati, Oshikoto, Ohangwena, Kavango West and Zambezi, following which selected schools were shortlisted for electrification. The selection criterion included, among others, the distance of the school from the national electricity grid, the number of learners, whether the school is located in an area inhabited by marginalised communities, and the grades at the school.
Solar electrification, mainly PV, is the preferred option for Namibian schools located in areas where the grid will not reach in the medium to long term.
Mines and Energy Deputy Minister Kornelia Shilunga, who inaugurated the Okahozu Primary School solar system on 24 August, said the system was a living example that progress and conservation can go hand in hand.
“With this solar system, we illuminate not just our classrooms but also the path towards a future where clean energy and education shape a world we can proudly pass on to future generations,” she said.
Okahozu Primary School head Ruth Katjizumo could not hide her excitement over the new solar system at the school, which she said had brought huge relief to both the learners and the teachers, as well as the surrounding communities from where the learners came from.
“The solar system will definitely improve the results of the children at the school as they can now study for longer hours and teachers can also adequately prepare for the lessons. Before, we used to travel to Opuwo (40km away) just to make photocopies. Our learners also used torches and fire to study. Now we have our own electricity,” she exclaimed.
Katjizumo said the solar power system has also enabled the school to pump water from the borehole and that they no longer have to use a diesel generator which was expensive to run.
To address the challenge of teachers travelling to Opuwo to print and make photocopies, Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTC) came on board through its corporate social investment initiative and supported the school with a multifunctional printer and projector.
The school now has a computer, printer and satellite television which is used for both learning and entertainment for the learners. Plans are also underway to have a fully-fledged computer lab at the school.
The teachers now have electricity at their houses on the school premises.
Kaaronda Kaunahama, a teacher at the school, said she is now able to prepare for her lessons during the evenings. Previously the teachers had to prepare their teaching materials during the day which put additional pressure on them as they also had to teach at the same time.
“We now have Wi-Fi at the school. We can connect to the internet and do our research. We can also do online studies,” she said, adding that she can now also to use her laptop to show the children some of the things she would be teaching them about.
Pohamba Tjiharuka, a learner at the school, said the solar system will improve their results and thanked GPE for considering his school for electrification.
Head of the GPE project in Namibia, Simon Inauen, said 15 social institutions had so far been electrified by the project but added that there was about 150 off-grid schools in Namibia that still needed to be electrified.
He appealed to the Okahozu Primary School management and community to take care of their solar system so they continue to benefit from it for at least the next 15 years.
Deputy Minister Shilunga said being mindful of the sustainability of the school’s new solar system, the Ministry of Mines and Energy has included the system installed at Okahozu Primary School and other GPE funded solar systems in its maintenance programme. The Ministry’s has appointed a private contractor to maintain both its containerized solar systems and GPE supported systems for a period of three years, thereafter, the maintenance tender will be readvertised.
The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, represented by Petrus Shipalanga, thanked the GPE and MME for the support and said the solar system not only brings electricity, but it can also be used by teachers of natural science, elementary agriculture and social science to teach learners about renewable energy.
He said the donation of the solar system will contribute to the improvement of quality of education at Okahozu School and in Kunene region in general.