New research underscores the significant social return of investing in the electrification of rural schools and clinics
A new study on the social return on investment of Project Jua, which provides solar power to clinics and schools in deprived rural areas of Kenya, has shown that every £1 invested can create up to £16 of social value. The research was conducted by The Social Investment Consultancy and assured by Social Value International, providing an independent forecast of value by measuring the long-term social, environmental and economic benefits for local communities. By carrying out an in-depth analysis of the positive impact of the project, the study serves as a powerful vindication of the case for solarising essential institutions in remote regions with unreliable grid electricity.
Funded by OVO Foundation, the charitable arm of OVO Energy, and implemented by Energy 4 Impact since 2017, Project Jua (meaning ‘sun’ in Swahili) has improved service provision by installing solar PV systems at 266 schools and 54 clinics across five rural counties of Kwale, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, Turkana and Isiolo. By surveying direct stakeholders, such as the project delivery team, funder, teachers, students, health professionals and patients, the study presents findings on the progress made towards achieving the long-term goals of improved health and educational outcomes.
Delivering improved accessibility to education was a key objective of the project. Reliable electricity for lighting has enabled schools to create a safer school environment for girls in particular: 71% of teachers have observed an increase in female attendance. Teachers can also remain available on site as they no longer need to commute to electrified facilities such as cyber cafes to type and print lesson documents. It is estimated that Jua has saved at least 87,600 hours of teacher time across the participating schools. As a result, 100% of teachers feel better supported to do their jobs.
Improved facilities at schools have also raised student performance in tests and exams. Not only are students able to take advantage of additional study and revision time in well-lit classrooms before and after the school day, lesson quality has improved because reliable electricity allows teachers to use ICT equipment, such as projectors, tablets and laptops, giving students more engaging and modern ways to learn. In fact, 78% of teachers have observed an improvement in student performance since Jua and the remainder think they will see this soon. The improved level of service provision has also resulting in pupils attending school more often as reported by 90% of teachers. Furthermore, with students attending school for an average of two extra hours per day, family members are finding that they have more time for leisure or income-generating activities.
Health clinics have also been able to increase both their opening hours and the range of services they are able to offer on site thanks to the availability of power and lighting at night. Health professionals noted the reduced need for staff to commute as staff could now perform tasks such as photocopying official documents on site. Electrification of clinic sites has resulted in 2400 hours of commuting time saved thus far. Again, 100% of health professionals feel better supported to do their jobs.
Electrification has also greatly contributed to the long-term goal of helping rural health clinics save lives. The extension of opening hours thanks to lighting as well as more efficient treatment with technology has led to an increase in the numbers of patients the clinics can see and treat, a result observed by 88% of respondents. Lighting and life-saving equipment such an incubators and oxygen machines can now be reliably powered during emergencies, such as the delivery of babies, meaning that fewer patients need to be referred onto larger medical facilities which causes a delay in treatment. To take one metric indicating the reduction of risk: children are most frequently referred onwards, but 41 emergencies involving children were treated on site since Jua so minimising the risk of prolonged illness or death.
Cost-effective solar power has also allowed the institutions to claw back the budget previously spent on unreliable grid electricity and divert the money towards other resources and service provision instead: schools have saved 71% of previous energy costs and clinics have saved 73%.
Needless to say, environmental sustainability is very much at the heart of the Jua project. Since the report by The Social Investment Consultancy was published, Energy 4 Impact has calculated that a total of 10.3 tonnes of carbon emissions were avoided at Project Jua sites during 2021. Almost all the teachers and medical staff surveyed believe that Jua has either made their institutions more sustainable or will do so in the future. So beyond the far-ranging social benefits that the project has brought to rural communities, Project Jua has also made a significant contribution to the government objectives of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030.
Read the full report from The Social Investment Consultancy here