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Electricity and education: The benefits, barriers, and recommendations for achieving the electrification of primary and secondary schools
UNDESA, 2014
by: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)

Despite the obvious connection between electricity and educational achievement, however, the troubling scenes in Guinea, South Africa, and Uganda are repeated in thousands and thousands of parking lots, hospitals, and homes across the developing world. As one expert laments, in the educational community, "we focus largely on pedagogy and little on access to energy". Such an absence of focus is detrimental because, as another study put it, "education is also widely recognized as one of the most essential components for poverty reduction". Lack of electricity at primary and secondary schools therefore creates considerable obstacles towards escaping poverty, and correlates with many factors that contribute directly towards it.

This report assesses the direct link between electricity and education. Based on the most recently available survey data from the World Bank and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the report first describes the current state of electrification of schools. According to the this data, roughly four out of every five primary and secondary schools in African countries surveyed lacked access to electricity, along with almost three quarters of village schools in India. Based on a systematic review of the peer-reviewed and policy literature concerning electricity and education, the report then assesses the educational benefits of electrification of primary and secondary schools, including lighting and access to information and communications technologies (ICT) as well improvements in staff retention and student completion and graduation rates. The final two main parts of the report, drawn from energy policy, development studies, and innovations in financing and public private partnerships literature, discuss the challenges facing school electrification, such as lack of financing and technical problems with equipment, along with the solutions and incentives with the potential to overcome them, such as PPPs.

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