Activity Report

[Field report] Supporting children’s education in Bangladesh with solar-powered LED reading lights

One CSR activity of The KAITEKI Institute (TKI) involves working with the Santa Barbara-based NPO ‘Unite to Light’ to provide solar-powered LED reading lights to children in parts of the world that don’t have access to sufficient electricity. These LED lights have a solar panel and storage battery so that it can be charged by sunlight during the day and then lit at night, enabling children to read and study indoors and when it is dark outside. TKI started working with Unite to Light in 2011, initially providing LED lights to disaster stricken areas of the Great East Japan Earthquake. This was followed by donating LED lights to Edna Adan University Hospital in Somaliland, and since then, we have provided LED lights to a number of locations around the world.

Starting in 2012, TKI has been working with the Rotary Club of Bangladesh to provide LED lights to children in Bangladesh. As a member of TKI, I travelled to Bangladesh in July 2013 to visit some of the places that had received the lights, which I will report on below.

The auto rikshaw I rode from Rajshahi

Of the 4 areas in Bangladesh that has so far received LED lights from TKI, I visited Rajshahi, which is in the west of the country and relatively close to the capital city of Dhaka. Rajshahi is near the border with India and faces the Ganges River (known as the Padma River once it flows into Bangladesh), and is an area known for its mango production. One school in this area that received the LED lights is an elementary school located on an island off of the river bank with a population of about three thousand.

From Dhaka to Rajshahi was about a six and a half hour drive. Once in Rajshahi, it took another 2 hours by ‘auto rickshaw’ to get to the banks of the river, and from there, a 30 minute boat ride to the island. To note, ‘auto rickshaw’ is a popular method of transportation in Bangladesh, and is a vehicle that runs on natural gas and is like a very rudimentary taxi.

The photos below show households using the LED lights, which I visited before going to the elementary school. The lights are, of course, not nearly as bright as the lighting in homes in Japan and other developed countries, but it still makes a crucial difference when other sources of light are not available to enable children to read and study indoors and at night.

Children at home using the LED lights

The next photo shows the elementary school and some students that have received the LED lights.

The elementary school building

Elementary school children with LED lights

Giving a new LED light

So far in Rajshahi, a total of 700 LED lights have been given out at 5 different schools. The elementary school that I visited this time had received 250 lights, and I also brought additional lights to give out on this trip.

After the elementary school, I visited a middle school further inland on the island. There, I was given the chance to observe a math class in progress, and saw (a+b)(a-b) = a2-b2 written on the blackboard. The level of the class seemed comparable to what is taught in Japanese middle school, indicating the high quality of education even in this rural part of Bangladesh.

We at TKI hope that the LED reading lights can give children living in areas without sufficient electricity an opportunity to read and study, and help open up new possibilities for their future. We will continue to work with Unite to Light to provide LED lights to various parts of the world and support children’s education in developing countries.

September 04, 2013