33 schools in Lamu and Tana benefit as Rural ElectrificationAuthority bets on solar energy

Rural Electrification Authority (REA) partners leading water and energy solutions provider Davis and Shirtliff to install solar systems in 33 public primary schools in Tana River and Lamu counties at a cost Kshs.58 million.

6000 pupils in the two coastal counties gain access to electricity as the government moves to distribute laptops to primary schools across the country. Partnership comes as part of the ambitious National Primary School Electrification project initiated in 2013.

The aim is the integration of ICT in the curriculum delivery. It is also to expand digital skills as enshrined in the government’s agenda connecting over 21000 public schools to electricity. This is according to the Ministry of Energy.

“As not all schools are close enough to the power grid to pull electricity, there was a need for an alternative and lasting solution. Our partnership with Davis and Shirtliff resulted from the need to power the schools that are off-grid in Tana River and Lamu counties,” said Semeka Ong’ong’a, the REA Project Supervisor for the Tana River and Lamu installations.

Many similar undertakings are geared towards implementing the government’s flagship laptops project. An installation in Tana River and Lamu counties is targeting all primary schools that were five kilometers from the grid and could only be powered effectively using of solar modules.

Next is a successful tendering process Davis and Shirtliff of fitting each of the schools with 14 solar panels and 10 batteries to power three classrooms, one computer classroom, staffroom and head teacher’s office.  Eighteen schools in Tana River County and fifteen in Lamu County were fitted with solar panels.

“We have installed the best-in-class solar equipment that will serve the schools for many years to come. The equipment comes with a warranty of 25 years and we will be maintaining it for a year to ensure that it is working at its optimum capacity,” said Norman Chege, Solar Division Manager at Davis and Shirtliff.

Immediately after the commissioning of the project, the schools have seen an increase in the number of students staying in class in the evenings to tackle their assignments. Initially, students would complete their assignments in dimly lit homes, which pose a danger to their eyesight.

Schools are recording an increase in attendance for adult education program carried out in the evening after regular school day comes to an end.  Davis & Shirtliff project team faced some logistical challenges. This is largely due to poor road linkage across the counties mainly in Lamu County and distances between the schools.

Schools in Lamu located near the border with Somalia have raised challenges following recent security scares. The team was able to complete the project in time for commissioning.

“It was a challenging project, especially undertaking the installations in Lamu County. Number of the schools are far flung and in remote areas. At times we had to transport the bulky equipment by boat between different parts of the border county, accompanied by between 5 and 10 KDF personnel to guarantee our safety,” said Mr. Chege.

REA is now in its final stages in The National Primary School Electrification project undertakings. It has so far seen over 20,000 primary schools across the country connected to electricity. It expected to complete it in the last quarter of this year according official sources.

Davis and Shirtliff previously undertook solar installations for schools in Daadab. This is where 28 schools benefitted through a project spearheaded by Windle Trust in 2014.  Davis and Shirtliff connected additional 16 schools in Dadaab to electricity through solar installations under a school electrification project with help of the Lutheran World Federation.

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