In February 2015, COINS Foundation funded a much needed solar project at PEAS (Promoting Equality in African Schools) Pioneer High School, in Mityana district in central Uganda. Six months from installation we take a look at the benefits that solar power has brought not only to the students and staff but also the wider community.

Enrolment, attendance, retention and results have all seen improvements tracked through the solar-powered electronic School Tool system, the system is in place across 9 PEAS Schools and allows teachers to collate information on how to improve the school. School enrolment has increased from 275 students (144 female, with only 65 females boarding) in 2014 to 354 students (198 females, with 94 females boarding) in 2015, overall attendance has grown from 87% in 2014 to 93% to date. Students are more engaged showing a more active involvement in revision activities including homework and teacher consultations, both during and after school. With UCE exams commencing in October, it will be interesting to see the effect of extended learning hours and revision time that solar power creates when the results are published in February 2016.

I am proud to be the Head Teacher of Pioneer High School. The school has improved greatly since solar power was installed. Our enrolment, especially in boarding, and overall attendance rate has shot up and our teacher’s commitment to teaching and learning has improved. We're now able to hold extra teaching sessions and our learners are able to hold preps early morning and evening [homework and revision]. Now there is lighting at night in the girls and boys dormitories, around the school compound and the wash rooms, the level of discipline and compliance to the school rules has improved greatly.

Most of our teachers now sleep in the school grounds and so teacher attendance rates have also improved, this has also helped to check students’ level discipline as well. Our image and relationship with parents and the entire community has improved because they feel we're very progressive and using our finances well.

Francis, Head Teacher of Pioneer High School

The PEAS monitoring and evaluation team carries out annual perception surveys across all PEAS schools to gather the opinions of students in a range of areas including boarding facilities, education quality, physical environment, student welfare, child protection and reputation of the school in the community. The findings of the 2015 surveys revealed great improvements, with the majority of students agreeing that teacher and pupil relations have improved with teachers able to offer more help due to extending learning time.

One of the major problems at Pioneer was the lack of light in the boarding facilities with many students saying that they felt unsafe going to the toilet at night. With the addition of solar power, most students feel safe to use the toilet and wash rooms at night because of the good lighting system in place. The school is now able to operate a TV and so offer boarding students and teachers the chance to watch the news and entertainment programmes, helping them feel more informed and improving morale. It has also enabled the school leader to have reliable communication with the PEAS Uganda office and is being used as a teaching aid for teachers, as it is a first for teachers who have only been able to use traditional power sources, such as hydro power, to demonstrate to students.

The head teacher, school director, a prefect and a s3 female student were all trained on safe use and how to clean and maintain the solar equipment, including replacing bulbs, monitoring wattage, including consumption and storage and how to extend solar power to new builds in the future. A manual was provided to the school to deal with any future technical challenges. A batch of solar panels was also left in the solar house as spares in case of any damage or to accommodate future expansion. The benefits of solar power are already clear, we look forward to continuing to work with our partners PEAS and Pioneer High School to monitor the progress of the students and to ensure that the solar power project continues to improve the live and education of the community.