Mwezi Foundation

Location: Kenya

The Mwezi Foundation gives portable solar lights to primary school children in Kenya to help them to do their homework at night and achieve their full academic potential.

Mwezi partnered with its first three schools in the Kilifi and Kwale Counties of Kenya in 2015 and there are now over 150 Mwezi schools.

Mwezi provides lights to children in Class 8 (12-14 year-olds). Pupils borrow the lights overnight to do their homework, on a rota basis, so they can improve their grades and have a better chance of progressing to senior school, completing their education and breaking the cycle of poverty. Lights are free of charge to the schools and guaranteed indefinitely, unless they are lost.

There is a particular focus on gender as Mwezi has found that girls are more likely to remain in education if they are allocated a light. For this reason, four of Mwezi’s schools are ‘Focus Schools’, which means that all the girls in class 8 are allocated a light.

Sustainability is at the heart of the Mwezi Foundation. The portable solar lights have been designed so that all components can be taken apart and replaced. This ensures that there is no plastic waste and that the life-span of the lights is extended. The solar lights are assembled and repaired by Mwezi’s Technical Manager, John, in their workshop in Likoni, Kenya. This provides local employment, whilst also reducing the air miles that would be required if the lights were to be transported to another country for repair.

The Mwezi Foundation has fully repaired 97% of all broken lights to date, and all possible parts have been salvaged for the remaining 3%. In order to support Mwezi with its goal to reach 50% of the primary schools in the Kilifi and Kwale Counties by 2026, NextEnergy Foundation is funding the cost of repairs to Mwezi’s full solar light stock as of April 2023. This equates to 4,456 solar lights distributed to over 8,900 pupils in 154 schools. As a result, every year 179,487 additional study hours will be created and 1,335 tonnes CO2 emissions will be avoided by replacing kerosene lamps with the solar lights.

A first progress report detailing the impact of the donation will be provided by Mwezi in September 2023. Please also visit Mwezi Foundation’s YouTube channel to see some of its work come to life: Mwezi Foundation – YouTube.

October 2023 Update: Key impacts from the first six months of the project are below:

  • 699 lights repaired, including 698 battery replacements; 228 panel replacements; and, 305 bulb replacements
  • 1,398 students studying for additional hours
  • 150,984 additional study hours over the next two years
  • 6,990 wider community beneficiaries, considering 5 additional family members per student, and each solar light is shared between two students
  • 123 teachers trained in operations and maintenance

Mwezi more closely monitors the impact of the lights on four ‘Focus Schools’ which are schools where all girls in Class 8 (14-15 years old) are allocated a solar light. Impacts across these four schools include:

  • 327 solar lights distributed
  • Improvements in academic performance
  • Increase in percentage of students studying after dark, from 10% to 85%
  • Increase in percentage of students studying at home, from 24% to 97%
  • Solar lights replacing the use of kerosene lamps; 69% students reported experiencing fumes prior to receiving the solar light and 59% reported suffering from eye strain when studying
  • 100% students reported that other members of the family benefit from the Mwezi solar light

“When I am studying using the Mwezi solar light, my siblings can also do their homework. The light has also enabled me to study for more hours which has helped to improve my performance. I can complete my homework or assignment that the teacher has given me on time.”

“The Mwezi light has helped us to see clearly and read comfortably. It helps us to save the money for buying kerosene.”

April 2024 Update: During the first year of the Project, 240 schools have been involved and a wide range of parameters related to light repairs have been monitored. Here are the main outputs:

  • Repaired lights: 2,317
  • Minimum lifespan of a light: increased by 6 months (from 24 to 36 months);
  • Reuse of components: increase from 50% to 55%. More components in each light are being reused, either by incorporating them into a new light or replacing different components;
  • Volume of light repairs: thanks to David, an additional technical assistant recruited to help manufacture and repair lights, the number of lights repaired has increased:
    • lights repaired per quarter increased from 382 in Q3 2023 to 1,064 in Q1 2024 (a 179% increase)
    • lights repaired per week increased from 33 to 70 (112% increase);
  • Cost of repairs vs new lights: around 19% of production costs are currently spent on repairs, Considering that the number of repaired lights is higher than the number of replaced with newly-manufactured, the ongoing repair activity results cost-effective.

The project achieved positive social and environmental impacts in the first year:

  • Estimated CO2 emissions avoided: 1,042tonnes
  • Benefited students: 4,634
  • Hours of extra study: 250,000+
  • Academic performance improvements:
    • KCPE, end of year 8 exam, score increased by 10%
    • Number of students qualifying to join national and extra county schools increased by 81% (from 11% to 20%)
  • People involved in renewable technology: 389 (2 teachers per school plus 4 Mwezi Foundation members)
  • Estimated saving on monthly household income on kerosene purchase: 4%

Below are some quotes from the teachers on the impact of the solar lights:

Teacher Juma of Makobeni Primary School :

“because of the support you extended to our pupils through the donation of portable solar lamps and regular replacement of damaged lamps, our school emerged the top in Rabai Sub-County in the 2023 KCPE exams, with 89% of the pupils scoring over 250 marks…We are extremely grateful for your partnership and look forward to greater achievements in future” [ed. The national average is 250, which includes Nairobi and other urban areas]

Teacher Fatma of M’bungoni Primary School:

“the solar lights have really assisted our pupils, with over 30% of the 2023 KCPE candidates qualifying to join national and extra-county schools for their secondary education…Through your support 11 pupils have managed to join national schools by getting 350 marks and above, 2 of them scoring above 400 marks, with another 13 securing places in extra-county schools by scoring between 300 and 349 marks…Their performance has also enabled some of them to secure scholarship opportunities for their secondary education with different entities” [ed. 400 marks would put them in the top 0.1% of the country]

Teacher James of Mulunguni Primary School:

“I would like to sincerely thank you and the entire organization for considering our school for the solar lamps. The lamps will be of great assistance to our learners and am sure this will improve the performance and lives of the beneficiaries. The donation is highly appreciated. On behalf of the Mulunguni school fraternity I say a big thank you”