Solar Lamps Brighten Schools for Indian Teens

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An Indian boarding school initiative for female teens has been hindered by electricity blackouts. Now the government is promising new, improved facilities and IKEA is offering solar lamps to light the way in the meantime.

LUCKNOW, UTTAR PRADESH, India (WOMENSENEWS)-- More than 39,000 young female teens in this state are studying in 454 boarding schools set up for them in 2004 and 2005 by a national project to increase literacy rates in some of the most undeveloped regions of the country.

Over 80 percent of these girls come from families living much below the poverty line.

It's an impressive literacy push, but the state's poor electricity supply--less than half the national average of 1 power connection for every 9.5 people--is holding things back.

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The government mandates that the schools be in areas of the state where girls' education is less than 30 percent.

"Such areas just do not get 24-hour power supply even if the buildings have electricity connections," says V.K. Pandey, an educator employed by the state government.

And many of the schools are crowded into existing schools. In one such school, the girls often eat lunch in darkness in a corridor.

"The girls also often keep the windows shut, especially during educational programs on health or during cultural activities, so that the boys from the adjoining areas can't peep in," says Vijay Laxmi, a teacher there.

The poor power supply also means students cannot study after sunset, so there is no homework and no studying after school hours, says Shuchi Mittal, the school warden.

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