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Social Issues
In A Place Where Electricity Is Scarce, Students Prep For Exams Wherever They Can Find Light
June 27, 2013
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In the African republic of Guinea, only one in five people has access to electricity. For many of the country's 10 million people, that means that when night falls, it's too dark to read.

That presents particular challenges to school kids around exam time, who need light to study by.

A documentary called 'Black Out', directed by Eva Weber (that's the trailer at the top of the post), tells the story of those kids, many of whom head to airports, gas stations or street curbs - anywhere electric light is available - to read their school books.

guinea-students-side.jpgIn some cases, finding suitable light means travelling a long way, and some students have to spend the night far from home - one of the documentary's subjects says she can't return home after 11 pm since it can be dangerous for a woman to travel at that time of night.

The doc also contrasts the students' dedication to their studies with a sense of hopelessness about their prospects for the future.

Weber told Take Part about meeting one young girl who was hitting the books at the G'bessia International Airport.

"I never imagined her saying, 'Why do we study? Even if we study, we might not get a job; so what is the point of it?'" she recalls. "At the same time, she's actually studying. She goes there every night, and she stays there until three o'clock in the morning."

The documentary was shot after Guinea's first democratic elections in 2010, when Weber and her crew went to the capital city, Conakry.

She says she saw a sense of hope in the country, especially among the kids.

"What really fascinated me was the situation of the children and their hope for a better future as a metaphor for the country, having this election and then finally hoping that the situation might improve," she told Take Part.

But after the crew left, an attempted coup served as a reminder of the challenges the country and its people face.

Weber returned to Guinea last Christmas, teaming up with UNICEF to screen her movie for school kids as a way of starting discussions about how to improve educational conditions.

The problem of access to electricity and light is not limited to Guinea.

In fact, about 1.5 billion people, or a fifth of the world's population, have no access to electricity, and a billion more have only an intermittent and unreliable supply, The Economist reports.

Children at a makeshift school in Karachi, Pakistan with limited lighting and electricity in 2009 (Photo: AP)

Fixing the problem entirely would require a huge investment: an average of $35 billion-40 billion a year, every year, until 2030, according to United Nations estimates.

Without that investment, the number of "energy poor" people on the planet will hardly change, and the International Energy Agency says 16 per cent of the world's population will still have no access to electricity by 2030.

The third annual Lighting Africa conference took place in November of 2012, an event run by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation.

The conference gathers together representatives from the private sector "to build sustainable markets that provide affordable, modern off-grid lighting to communities across Africa that are not on the electricity grid."

Via Take Part


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