SCB funded solar power and Adult Literacy Programs at nine buildOn schools in Malawi in 2021. Today, more than 6,000 children and 700 adults have benefitted from the increased access to education that these lights and classes have provided.

Children in Chang’ombe struggled to learn sitting on the floor in dilapidated structures or outside under trees. Because of its remote location, the community did not have access to electricity. Most of the children used small flashlights or candles in the evenings. The flashlights needed their batteries replaced frequently – which many families could not afford – and the candles didn’t give off much light nor last very long. These obstacles left the learners with very little time to study, resulting in poor scores on their examinations.

Circumstances in Chang’ombe finally began to change in October 2021 when the community partnered with SCB and buildOn to construct a new school block. Today, not only do the children attending this school finally have proper classrooms and desks, they also have solar power.

The new school block has transformed the learning experience

The new buildOn school block in Chag’ombe has provided students with a safe place to learn and study – both during the day and at night.

“The electricity has enabled me to have extra study periods at night,” says 16-year-old Bernadette Mwale, who is currently in the seventh grade and dreams of being a teacher when she grows up. “I have now improved my examination scores and grades.”

“Having solar power has caused a lot of motivation for our learners in attending classes,” says Head Teacher, Tryness Bondo. “We have noticed a reduction in absenteeism in learners ever since we started using the new school block with electricity. At the same time, parents are now more eager to send their children to this school.”

Beyond giving learners the opportunity to study at night, having access to solar power at the school has helped the teachers of Chang’ombe to more effectively plan lessons and educate their pupils. “With the solar light, we can easily write lesson plans and fill in student records, even at night,” says Tryness.

Students in Chang’ombe can now study at night thanks to the installation of solar panels on their school

Fellow teacher, Zione Bvulumende, adds, “With the installation of electricity, we can easily organize staff meetings at night especially when we have very tight schedules during the day hours. Electricity has also simplified the process of teaching and learning because, for example, we are now able to use a computer to show a video explaining a science experiment we are conducting. In the past, most concepts were just explained theoretically and it was difficult for the learners to grasp the content. Honestly, the electricity installed at the school has had great impact on the community.”

Adult Literacy Participants Celebrate in Malawi

In addition to funding solar power, SCB also funded Adult Literacy Programs in nine rural Malawian communities, including Chang’ombe. This innovate buildOn program is giving 104 adults in Chang’ombe, including 92 women, the opportunity to gain valuable skills in reading, writing and arithmetic.

There are 104 participants enrolled in the Adult Literacy Program in Chang’ombe, of whom 92 are women

For program participants like 45-year-old Jessy Banda, buildOn’s Adult Literacy classes are providing a second chance at an education that many thought was lost forever. “When my parents died, I was unable to pay for my education and had to drop out of school after Grade 3,” remembers Jessy. Since her Adult Literacy Classes began in March, Jessy is excited to report that she has already learned how to hold a pen and write between the ruled lines of her school notebook. “My expectation from this program is to be functionally literate, where I can read, write, and do basic math,” says Jessy. “I hope to be able to apply these skills to my farming and business ventures.”

With all of these positive changes happening in their community, the future is looking brighter for all of Chang’ombe’s learners, both young and old.

Read the full story on buildOn’s website here.