The Rural Electrification Authority (REA) in partnership with Davis and Shirtliff has completed a Sh58m project to install solar systems in 33 public primary schools in Tana River and Lamu counties.

This will see over 6,000 students in the two coastal counties gain access to electricity as the government moves to equip public primary schools across the country with laptops.

The partnership comes as part of the ambitious National Primary School Electrification project initiated in 2013, whose overall aim is the integration of ICT in the curriculum delivery to expand digital skills, as enshrined in the government’s agenda, through connecting 21,158 public schools to electricity, according to the Ministry of Energy.

One of many similar undertakings geared towards implementing the government’s flagship laptops project, the installations in Tana River and Lamu counties targeted all primary schools that were more than five kilometers from the grid and could only be powered effectively through the use of solar modules.

“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.

Following a successful tendering process, Davis and Shirtliff, fitted each of the schools, 18 in Tana River County and 15 in Lamu County, with 14 solar panels and 10 batteries to power three classrooms, one computer classroom, the staffroom and the head teacher’s office.

“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, the 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.

The schools are also recording an increase in attendance for their adult education programmes, which are carried out in the evening after the regular school day comes to an end.

The Davis & Shirtliff project team faced some logistical challenges, largely due to poor road linkage across the counties, mainly in Lamu County, and the distances between the schools.

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

“It was a challenging project, especially undertaking the installations in Lamu County. A 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 Chege.

The National Primary School Electrification project undertaken by REA is now in its final stages and has so far seen over 20,000 primary schools across the country connected to electricity and is expected to be completed before the end of the year according official sources.

Davis and Shirtliff has previously undertaken solar installations for schools in Daadab, where 28 schools benefitted through a project spearheaded by Windle Trust in 2014. Also last year, Davis and Shirtliff connected an additional 16 schools in Dadaab to electricity through solar installations under a school electrification project by the Lutheran World Federation.

Davis and Shirtliff Limited is an African multinational, operating through a network of branches in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi and DRC. Founded in Kenya in 1946, it is the leading supplier of water-related and alternative energy equipment in East Africa.

Source: All Africa