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Botswana: Lighting up academic excellence through solar backpacks

Thousands of children in sparsely populated Botswana walk long distances from school almost every day. After school, these children, mostly from rural areas, face another challenge in that they are unable to study at night due to the absence of electricity in their homes.This is also not helped by the fact that Botswana’s electricity supply is overwhelmed by growing energy demand, with the peak electric power deficits being met through imports.

In recognition of this, First National Bank (FNB) Botswana Foundation and the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) have been rolling out a programme under which they provide solar backpacks and stationary to several villages and towns in their drive to make education more accessible and reach more children.

The two organizations, in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, will this week launch the initiative at Ramonaka Primary School in Kgatleng District in southern Botswana.

According to ministry spokesperson Nonofo Zwinila, the launch follows recent launches in other villages and towns across Botswana. 

The latest launch, which will be done by Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Botlogile Tshireletso, will take place on August 7.

“The main aim of the initiative is to empower primary school children in remote areas with solar backpacks to support their learning at home,” said Zwinila.

She added: “Pupils in upper classes (standard 4-7) in selected schools will receive a solar backpack equipped with a lamp while those in the lower classes (reception to standard 3) will be given stationery. This donation will subsequently be rolled out to other districts across the country.”

The solar backpacks are made in such a way that students can comfortably carry their books to school while at the same time the panel attached to the bag charges in the sun during the day so that the light bulb encased within the bag produces enough light to aid during studies at home at night.

FNB Botswana and BPC said they have jointly ventured into a unique approach to supporting the development and growth of primary school children in as far as improvement of academic performance is concerned.

It is against this background that the two entities have found it relevant to collaborate towards a common intention, to provide solar power to those in need of light for their personal cultivation.

The partners will thus ensure that monitoring of academic performance of the student beneficiaries is undertaken to measure the impact of the solar backpack on citizens’ empowerment.

FNB Botswana official Kelebogile Disang said the bank believes access to the solar bags will assist in improving the performance of the students because they will be able to read at night without being hindered by lack of sources of light at home.

BPC official Kesejwang Setlabosha said the initiative is aimed at supporting pupils with basic lighting for their studies with the desire to improve their academic performance.

“This is also a continuation of our efforts to improve lives of young people and contribution towards the education sector as you may know that in addition to these bags,” she said.

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