Gaza school going solar

man installs solar panel in Gaza
An engineers installing the solar panels at Bashir El Rayyes school. Photo credit: UNDP/PAPP

Bashir El Rayyes, an all girls high school, is one of the 398 schools in the Gaza Strip affected by the current electricity crisis. Since 2006, Gaza has been facing chronic electrical shortages, exacerbated by the most recent crisis in Gaza, which damaged related infrastructure and Gaza’s sole power plant.

Around 70% of Gaza’s schools currently operate double shifts to accommodate about 200,000 students attendance on a daily basis.  Schools, hospital emergency rooms, maternity wards, and local businesses have been affected the most. The current electricity deficit of 61% has resulted in 8-12 hours of daily power cuts, affecting the entire Gaza population.

Highlights

  • About 1.8 million people live on less than 8 hours of electricity a day in the Gaza strip.
  • More than 60% of households are supplied with running water for 6-8 hours once every four days.
  • The two-year project is part of UNDP’s support to the Palestinian Solar Initiative, which aims to meet 30% of energy demands from renewable resources by 2020.
  • The installation of solar cells in schools and hospitals will benefit 107,000 people.

“Electricity is life,” said Maha El Tawil, the headmistress at Bashir El Rayyes School. “Many parents requested that we buy a generator but it was not an option. The fuel, if available, is too costly and having a generator will strain an already limited budget. Add to that noise and environmental pollution. We needed a better alternative.”

The Gaza Strip has an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, making renewable energy an ideal option. UNDP, with funds from the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), provided a sustainable energy source for Gaza through the installation of solar panels in schools, healthcare and water facilities as part of the “Renewable Energy Generation” project.

Bashir El Rayyes High School, which serves around 1800 female students over a two-shift period, is one of the four schools that benefited from the renewable energy generation project. In Gaza, where nearly 41% of youth face chronic unemployment, powering up Gaza’s schools so youth can prepare for the job market is vital. Of Gaza’s youth, girls are the most vulnerable, often at risk of being forced to forgo school in lieu of work to support their families.

The project also included the installation of solar panels in two maternity clinics, in addition to a submersible pump for the Down syndrome society in Gaza, serving 1000 children. The project is part of UNDP’s support to the Palestinian Solar Initiative, which aims to meet 30% of energy demands in the occupied Palestinian territory from renewable resources by 2020.

The students and teachers at Bashir El Rayyes are hoping that the classrooms will not be as cold and dark this winter season.

“The electricity shortage hindered the educational process, especially in winter. This was a challenge for teachers and students operating the second shift. We used to teach in the dark - unable to read what was written on the board nor in the books,” Maha explained.

Expressing her concerns when she first joined the school she said “For us in administration, our challenge was to carry on with our daily work, submit reports, grades, and follow-up with higher administration via email. The school life here was suspended.”

After the solar panels were installed, classrooms can now be lit during power cuts, photo copying and fax machines stay on, and most importantly students can enjoy their computer classes that were put on hold for so long.

“There were always power cuts at the school, which left us cut off from learning about technology. Because of the solar panels, we can see clearly what is written on the board. We can go to the computer lab and learn,” said Hala, a student at Bashir El Rayyes School.

“No one ever imagined that electricity shortages could be solved by using our own clean energy source – the sun. We come to school every day not worrying about using the microphone to line up the students, turn the lights on, or even have water in the tanks.  This project has reflected positively on the students’ performance. It is truly an exceptional project implemented at an exceptional time.” Maha concluded.

The Renewable Energy Generation project will improve the livelihoods of approximately 107,000 people, raise awareness about clean energy and lay the groundwork for energy transition – saving money, creating jobs and protecting the environment.

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