Kenya is home to the largest refugee camp in the world, Dadaab, with about 210,000 people, mainly Somalis, currently living there. The complex lies in Garissa County and when it was set up by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1991, it was initially intended to be a temporary camp to house Somalis fleeing the civil war in their country. The camp takes its name, Dadaab, from the town 50 miles from the Somali border where it is located, and it encompasses the settlements of Ifo, Dagahaley, Kambioos and Hagadera.
The spark of inspiration
Eni’s relationship with Dadaab began in 2015, thanks to an initiative by Claudio Descalzi. In November six years ago, an Instant Classroom hosted by the Vodafone Foundation, designed to connect refugee students to digital education, gave Eni’s CEO the chance to talk to a group of young people, between the ages of 16 and 22, from the Kenyan refugee camps. That led to an internal meeting within Eni, with employees sharing ideas on the company blog.
It was agreed that a range of works would be carried out to improve access to education by supplying solar energy to schools without electricity. The past five years have seen big results. Living conditions for children in the camps have improved significantly. We’ve successfully delivered lighting and solar systems to 11 schools, which has meant that about 10,000 children have been able to learn to read and write.
Light, education and safety
In total, 40kW of solar energy has been installed in 11 primary schools. Each school now has continuous electricity available for eight hours, with a maintenance contract that will allow the systems to operate effectively for the next 10 years. The number of teachers has reached an average of 12 per school – about one for every 60 pupils. And the number of pupils has increased by 16 per cent, according to the latest figures. It’s important to stress that these numbers are a direct result of the difference made by electric lighting, which has meant that children can be taught both in the morning and in the evening. The arrival of energy in the camps has meant teachers can help their pupils in the best ways possible. It has also made the place feel safer, particularly for girls and women.
The schools have also received 47 computers and 11 printers with copiers. As a result, the first computer lessons have begun at two schools, with children learning the basics. The enthusiasm we delivered along with this equipment has also prompted school leaders and communities to organise a series of evening classes for adults, with 10 students in each class. There are also courses for adults, including school teachers, to learn how to maintain and clean the solar panels. Communication inside the camp has improved too, thanks to the ability to recharge mobile phones, make photocopies and print documents.
Energy in Dadaab: results and benefits
where the energy is used
in pupils between 2017 and 2018
per school, on average
installed on 11 school buildings
benefitting from the project
divided among the various schools
with copiers given to schools
Partnerships that support the initiative
Practical analysis of the project was undertaken in collaboration with the UNHCR, the Kenyan Ministry of Energy and Petroleum and the AVSI Foundation – People for Development. The initiative is in line with the Ministry’s scheme for Kenya, which aims to get energy to every school in the country, the Garissa county education scheme, and the plan to develop the country’s eastern regions with the aim of gradual repatriation of refugees. It’s also in line with the UNHCR programme’s “Integrated action plan for sustainable return and reintegration of Somali refugees”.
We used to prepare the exam exercises by hand but now we do them on the computer. This has reduced our workload, giving us more time to devote to other activities.
Covid-19 and its challenges
Under the lockdown imposed by the Kenyan government, schools at the camps have been closed. So AVSI has developed and implemented alternative methods of delivering information about Covid-19 and the anti-contagion measures that need to be followed to protect the children, their relatives and teachers. Thanks to its experience, and integrated support from IT, AVSI has also been able to develop teaching methods that protect the health of teachers, children, parents and assistants. As a result, distance learning has become the norm. Thanks to Eni’s previous initiatives to install solar panels and help teach IT to people in the camps, we created a practical system in which AVSI could work successfully.
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