Unite to Light Blog
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Solar Lights Brighten the Future

December 6, 2018
Nomusa lives in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and she is one of the lucky children who is able to attend school. Unfortunately, her going to school means that her mother has less help around the home with her younger children, and even less time in order to work to put food on the table for the family. But she knows that education is important: it is the key to a brighter future for Nomusa, and she saves for a uniform, a pencil and a book. The family does with less so Nomusa can have more. 
After school Nomusa is still expected to fetch water from a stream that is a mile away and help care for her younger siblings. This means that Nomusa’s day is just beginning as school ends and she doesn’t have time for homework during the daylight hours. Unfortunately, when the sun goes down, she can’t do her homework because she doesn’t have light due to a lack of electricity. Kerosene is too expensive and even candles are in short supply. Without that valuable study time, she may not pass her classes, much less graduate, despite the sacrifices her family has made. 

​​​​​​​Sadly, Nomusa’s story is true for many children living without electricity. Having access to clean, safe and reliable light is crucial to improving health, education and prosperity for these populations. That is why Unite to Light supports projects that give lights to students who can not otherwise afford them. In an effort to understand the impact our lights have had, we are tracking pass through rates (the rate at which students pass from one grade to another successfully) and graduation rates in schools that have received Luke Lights from Unite to Light.. 

In 2015, a principal in one of the schools in South Africa created a “Light Library” where the school “owned” the lamps and lent them out as students needed them. After the Principal reported higher test scores, we decided to conduct a full pilot project in multiple schools.  

In 2017 we donated 1,000 Luke Lights to create a series of these Light Libraries across 20 secondary schools. The principals of each school had to provide three years of historical test data and agree to provide three future years of test data. As described, the lights would stay with the schools but be loaned out during times of need, specifically around the times of the Matric Exams (their equivalent to a high school exit exam). A student must pass the Matric Exam to graduate from secondary school. 

When we compared the Matric Exam pass rates from 2017 to the first year the school had received lights, we saw an average increase in pass rates of 21%. This means that 21% of students like Nomusa were able to pass their exams and earn their diploma. In a place where unemployment is over 50%, not graduating from high school all but guarantees that person will be unemployed. 

In addition to looking at the change in pass rates, we wanted to see if the number of lights a school received impacted test scores. We found that communities with a higher light to student ratio had, on average, a higher pass rate for the Matric Exam. The solar lights had a positive impact and a greater light to student ratio can be correlated to higher pass rates. That said, the data was limited and we look forward to expanding the number of schools, students, and years going forward. To that end, 1,500 solar Luke Lights were deployed in a similar model in 2018 and we are looking forward to examining the new schools and year-over-year progress. We are looking forward to helping more students like Nomusa meet their potential. 

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