Solar lighting to support education in tribal residential schools of India
Koraput is one of the three most underdeveloped districts in the state of Odisha, India. Tribal dominancy coupled with rising lack of basic infrastructure such as roads, water, communication and electricity have kept these districts less developed, resulting in local conflicts. Illiteracy combined with social and gender disparity in education and other socio-economic indicators are other important causes. All the 14 blocks of this district are labeled as educationally backward blocks (EBB) and receive funds through various schemes for promotion of education.
One such scheme is the establishment of residential complexes for tribal children close to their habitations to promote enrollment and retention and better educational outcome. Koraput has 152 tribal residential schools, where the number of girls enrolled at the primary level is higher as compared to boys. However, the ratio reverses in upper primary due to high drop-outs (UNICEF, 2011). The major reasons cited for dropouts were poor school infrastructure and socio-economic backwardness.
In a bid to improve the infrastructural situation of these schools, the Integrated Tribal Developmental Agency (ITDA), which is the nodal agency responsible for establishing and maintaining these residential schools in the district joined hands with TERI, to provide solar lighting solutions in these schools. Solar charging Stations for recharging solar lanterns for these students were set up in 23 of these schools under this project, with financial support from UNEP and UNICEF. Having seen the far reaching impacts of the intervention, TERI has leveraged more funding support from some Public Sector Units to replicate and even expand the scope of this project to cover more schools.
The overall objective of the project was to provide clean lighting solution to tribal students in the residential schools of Koraput in order to facilitate better environment for education
The target group consisted of the students and teachers of the tribal residential schools in Koraput district of Odisha, who do not have access to electricity, especially during peak demand hours and are forced to resort to the use of environmentally unsustainable fuel for meeting their lighting needs. This project (which is now being upscaled) covered 23 schools.
A study was carried out by a university student interning at TERI on a sample of project schools to assess the output and impacts of the intervention (ref: project report submitted by the student). The direct major output of the project was a reduction in kerosene consumption. Prior to the intervention, schools were consuming anywhere from 25 to 100 litres per month. This has decreased to somewhere between 5 and 15 litres, thereby reducing expenditure on kerosene as well. Schools, which were earlier spending within a broad range of Rs. 300 to Rs. 1600, have reduced expenses on kerosene by almost 88% on the upper limit, as the range has declined to Rs. 100 to Rs. 200. Some of the major outcomes of this initiative, as observed during the study are:
- Greater illumination and less crowding: The solar lantern is not just brighter than a kerosene lanterns, there is also less crowding around a single source of light as the school authorities do not have to worry about saving the rationed kerosene anymore. Prior to the intervention, 8-10 students were sharing a single kerosene lantern, on an average. As of now, maximum of 5 students share one solar lantern. This has made studying more comfortable. A more conducive study environment has led to a greater interest and more time devoted to studies.
- Increase in evening study time: Across schools, the time devoted to studies in the evening has increased. The number of hours spent on studies has gone up for junior classes by an average of 0.5 to 1 hour in the evening, while for the senior classes the average increase has been 1.5 to 2.5 hrs.
- Increased efficiency of teaching staff: Due to an increase in the time devoted to students by the resident teachers, as a result of the intervention, the workload of teachers has increased. However, teachers felt that as the working environment has become more comfortable and positively causative, it is easier to teach, plan tests and lessons and also manage administrative work and checking of papers.
- Health benefits: 80% of the students earlier suffered from breathing problems due to the smoke emitted by kerosene lanterns. Aside, they also admitted to having frequent headaches, red eyes, blackened nostrils, stress and irritation. These problems have vanished with the introduction of clean lighting.
- Safety and security: All the headsevaks (chief attendants) and students felt that safety in school premises has increased because of solar lighting. Some of the common responses for benefits in safety included: no risk of fire from kerosene lanterns; reduced threat of bear attack; reduced chance of snake bite; safety in use of toilets at night; reduced fear of ghosts among younger students.
1. Public-Private Partnership: The partnership with Integrated Tribal Developmental Agency (ITDA), a government agency, enabled TERI in reaching out to these remote schools in the toughest areas. ITDA is responsible for establishing and maintaining these residential schools in Koraput. ITDA and the district administration not only provided the administrative and logistic support in implementing the project, it also raised funds to support 20 schools under this partnership.
2. Operational model - The responsibility of the Solar Charging Station (SCS) was solely resting with the head masters, with either a member of the resident school staff or one (or a group) of the responsible students acting as operators of the charging station. These operators have the responsibility of connecting the lanterns for charging every morning, distributing the lanterns to the pre-formed student groups of 2-3 students each, and recording their monitoring and usage. The task of upkeep and maintenance of the solar panels, which mainly includes dusting the panels, has also been assigned to a group of students led by a school staff.
3. Geographical and political barriers in Koraput have been addressed by promoting renewable energy technologies such as solar lighting for development. The district is covered by hills and forest hence, accessibility is one of the key issues which hamper basic infrastructure development including connection with central grid and supply of power required to fulfill basic need specifically for lighting. The district falls under the backward district category/Left Wing Extremism (LWE) category as described by the Planning Commission of India which indicates that the pace of development is slow. Due to LWE category, administrative and political efforts are diverted into broader issues instead creation of educational facilities and infrastructure for poor, which is also one of the reasons for lack of development activities and growth in these areas.
For supporting the one-time capital cost and project implementation cost, funding support was received from UNEP for 3 schools and UNICEF for 20 schools as a grant. However, in order to ensure that the project is operated and maintained sustainably over a period of years, the operational cost has come from the school administration's fuel fund, which was earlier spent on buying kerosene.
Odisha is one of the lesser developed states in India with measures for social and human development like HDI and GDI being lower than the mean national value (UNDP, 2011). Koraput in Odisha is one of the three most underdeveloped districts of this State. In addition to 89.9% of population inhabiting villages (Census of India, 2011), Koraput also comes under Tribal sub plan region as more than 50% of the population is scheduled tribe (Annual Action Plan for KBK Districts, 2008).Tribal dominancy coupled with lack of basic infrastructure like roads, water, communication and electricity have kept the economy undeveloped. Illiteracy combined with social and gender disparity in education and other socio-economic indicators are other important causes.
In addition to various Central and State sponsored education schemes being implemented in Koraput, it also comes under Tribal Sub-Plan approach receiving Special Central Assistance (SCA). This district as part of KBK district also has been allocated separate funds from the State through annual action plan for KBK districts. The integrated Tribal Developmental Agency (ITDA) is responsible for establishing and maintaining these residential schools in Koraput. The ITDA is also responsible for undertaking development works in villages where more than 50% if the residing inhabitants are tribal.
To address the issue of energy access in these districts, Planning Commission and Ministry of Home Affairs have announced scheme for LWE districts called 'Integrated Action Plan' under addresses energy as one of the component and many of districts have proposed/implemented energy related projects in their respective districts. In addition to that, Planning Commission and Ministry of New and Renewable Energy have designed a scheme to establish 100 SCS in each of the LWE districts, in which Odisha has highest number of districts allocated. Odisha Renewable Energy Development Agency is also encouraging the implementation of renewable energy projects and developing infrastructure by installing solar street lights, home lighting systems etc. Various NGOs, state government bodies like ITDA, District Welfare Office etc are involved in providing energy access by integrating the development issues and lack of electricity access into the projects planned.
Basic level sensitization of both, the operators and the users was conducted before or during installation and detailed training of the operators and the users was done once they started using the lanterns. The operators / in-charge were trained by TERI on basic operations, upkeep and maintenance of the equipment and on the guidelines for usage mainly. The operators were also trained on maintaining funds for repair and maintenance and the channel for getting faults rectified. Similarly the users, who are the students and the staff of the hostel, were trained on proper usage of the lanterns.
Using secondary data available with the District Welfare Office, schools were shortlisted for a scoping and assessment. Within the shortlisted schools, a survey was conducted to ascertain the need and detailed discussions on the project, roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders, especially the schools staff after the project is implemented, were discussed. Once the school administration agreed understood and agreed to take care of the systems, the schools were finalised for the project.
The reduction in kerosene consumption from 25-100L per month per school to somewhere between 5 and 15L has resulted in a decrease in expenditure of fuel for lighting as well, from Rs. 300 – 1600 to Rs. 100-200. This money is being utilized for food and nutrition of the residents. A few headmasters mentioned that post the intervention, they were able to follow the diet plan given to them by District Welfare Office (DWO). The quality of food being provided has been reported to have improved with greater portions of meat, vegetables, milk products and eggs being given now.
One of the prime objectives for provision of light is to increase the study hours specifically for the students studying in higher standards which are very much evident in many of the schools. Reduced health concerns of students, coupled with avoidance of problems with kerosene lantern and enhancement of their perception of safety has resulted in added benefits in education and daily life as most of these schools are situated in forest, many of them are surrounded by habitation and hostels with adolescent girls requires proper lighting to ensure safety. On the other hand, greater participation of students in extra-curricular activities and longer cabinet meetings would increase their social cohesiveness helping in their overall development. As the residents are tribal, music and dance are an important part of their culture. Thus, by promoting such activities the quality of learning has enhanced. The responsibility of everyday operation and maintenance was handled in an innovative manner through the creation of student's cabinet with responsibilities being allocated to different students. Students leading the team that was responsible for it was called the Energy Minister. This will be helpful in overall growth and personality development of the students.
The partnership with ITDA, a government agency, enabled TERI in reaching out to these remote schools in the toughest areas. The Integrated Tribal Developmental Agency (ITDA) is responsible for establishing and maintaining these residential schools in Koraput. The ITDA and the district administration not only provided the administrative and logistic support in implementing the project, it also raised funds to support 20 schools under this partnership.
This project was monitored and supervised by both TERI and ITDA. ITDA, working in close coordination of these school administrations, keeps a regular check on the functioning and usage of the lanterns. They also regularly audit the records.
TERI, on the other hand monitors and evaluates the project through the online Project Management System developed in-house, which has facilitated end-to-end mapping, starting from identification of schools / villages to its post-implementation monitoring, and capturing micro level details of each stage of the process. It offers granular, village level data including census codes, energy status, partner & entrepreneur information, etc. For the sake of greater transparency, TERI conducts regular field visits to inspect the functioning of the charging stations. The Field Monitoring System (FMS) is a part of the LaBL-PMS, and it enables proper monitoring post installation. It provides monthly data on usage activities, performance and maintenance and facilitates timely intervention for rectification, replacements, etc.
A detailed Impact Study has also been conducted by TERI through a university student to get an unbiased perspective on the actual impacts of the project.
Looking at the outcome of this project, ITDA has funded 32 other schools in the same district, out of which solar lanterns have been installed in 17 schools and the remaining are in pipeline. TERI has also initiated another project with financial support from the Power Finance Corporation, a public sector unit, to provide solar energy for not just lighting devices but also for a range of other appliances that help in furthering the cause of education in around 100 residential schools in tribal areas. The scope of this new project covers power for computers, drinking water purification systems for schools, and other teaching and learning aids. ITDAs of several other districts of Odisha have approached TERI as well.
The LaBL in residential schools project has immense replicability potential, as there are more than 152 such residential schools in Koraput district only, most of which do not have any electricity. The condition in most of the residential schools in other tribal districts of the country ascertains the need for such an intervention. Also with the current crisis in electricity generation and high cost to the end user, conventional electricity is also becoming expensive to the school management as well as the tribal villagers. Short supply of kerosene (even if considered hazardous for health) is encouraging increase in the cost per liter. Due to these reasons, there is a requirement to have a viable, economical and sustainable delivery models which enable the access to clean lighting in the schools, villages of the tribal regions. This need coupled with the kind of support received from the government agency responsible for looking after the tribal areas provides a strong basis for replicating this project across several states in the country. Public-private partnership, as demonstrated by this pilot, can go a long way in taking this initiative to several such schools.
Jaipuriya U. 2012. Assessing the impact of clean lighting on education: Case study of residential schools and villages under LaBL in Koraput. Major Project Report. Submitted to TERI University. 118p.
Name:Solar lighting to support education in tribal residential schools of India
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a research institute established in 1974 with its headquarters in New Delhi, India. The LaBL programme has been conceptualized and initiated by TERI.
Project status:Completed project
Implementing approach:Public private partnership