Electricity For Education: Situation in Gilgit-Baltistan

By Tajunnisa

Electricity access refers to the percentage of people in a given area that have relatively simple, stable access to electricity. Not all countries and areas have equal access to electricity, and the level of access can be indicative of the development level of the country or area in question. This means that electricity access serves as a good proxy for other indicators of wealth and opportunity in a country (Jordan, Kailyn, Donev, 2017).

International Energy Agency 2015 states that around 1.2 billion people worldwide do not have access to electricity in their homes, many of these, approximately 95%, people located in Africa and few in Asia. As well, most of the people who do not have access to electricity are part of the rural population, with about 84% of people without access to electricity living in rural areas (IEA 2015). Electricity is the key component to modern technology and without it most of the things that we use every day simply could not work. The people’s social life almost stops in power outages, it is the most important intervention to maintain the life of the human community. Electricity could be considered as heart to the body of development.

As per an interactive map provided by World Bank, 91% of Pakistan’s population that had access to electricity in 2010 (World Bank, 2015). As compare to the said data of 2010 today in 2017 our area Gilgit-Baltistan seems yet to obtain the said opportunity especially in Hunza around 99% of the population leaves without access or hardly ever access to electricity just like Sub-Saharan Africa. Although Gilgit Baltistan is the water bank for Pakistan due to large area of glaciers and snow deposits on its mountains, it seems Governments (current and previous) are taking no interest in solving electricity issues of the region. The area includes about 27% to 30% glaciers, which is the largest in the world outside polar region. Hunza, which is famous for its natural beauty, many of its mountains are with full of snow, water reservoirs, lakes, waterfalls and a river which is one of major tributaries of Indus River. However, despite of having all these water resources, there still seems to be no permanent solution for electricity shortfall. Although Electricity is one of the basic requirements of human life no matter what age and group the individual belongs to, this essential resource is very much needed and highly significant. However, students of all ages are highly affected by the shortfall of electricity.

Following may be listed as impact of Electricity short fall, however in upcoming lines our focus will be correlation between access to energy and academic success:

  1.  Quality of Education of the children would be suffered; for instance we can refer the list of position holders in SSC and HSC result of AKU-EB in Pamir time of July 21, 2017.
  2.  Decline in standard of living
  3.  Industrial development would be stopped
  4.  Communication and transport would be disturbed
  5.  Increased reliance over diesel generators cause rise in pollution

In Hunza, lack of electricity may not seem to be the most pressing need for Education as schooling typically takes place during the day, we often forget the importance of lighting as a constraint to education in our area just like in the developing world. “A recent documentary by award-winning filmmaker Eva Weber entitled “Black Out” captures importance of energy to education. In its eye-opening scene, hundreds of children in Guinea’s capital Conakry are too busy studying under the international airport’s parking lights to notice the sound of planes landing. The learners, none of whom have electricity at home, gather in publicly lit areas every night just to revise their school work” (Goodwin, 2016). The situation in Hunza is similar however we do not have such lights available even in public places.

Although in today’s digital age, energy access is crucial to obtain quality education. However in Hunza the children do not have electricity or such a place for study. There is also a clear correlation between access to energy and academic success. “Eva’s poignant documentary strongly connects the relationship between electrification and education – without the former, the latter inevitably suffers”. The haunting images of wandering school children studying under the sodium streetlights are both despairing and inspiring. The desire of these children to learn and believing that education holds the key to breaking the poverty cycle coupled with their resolve to succeed under the most challenging circumstances makes “Black Out” mandatory viewing for all children who are privileged to have power”(Goodwin, 2016).

According to Goodwin, in 2011, a school in the south east of Sudan whose students averaged a pass rate of less than 50% were catapulted to 100% after providing electricity. With light after dark, students could study safely at night. A school in Tanzania also recorded a similar boost in the learning assessment result of its children, after the school became electrified. No assess to electricity not only limits a child’s ability to study after dark. Electrification can help schools in villages attract teachers, allowing them to prepare their lesson-plans effectively. Electricity also enables the teachers to use ICT in education, teachers can include ICT integration in their teaching. The teachers can teach 21st century skills through the ICT tools.

A report of UN states that “the lack of electricity at schools is unfortunate, because of the multiple services it can provide in the classroom. Lighting can enable classes to be taught early in the morning or late at night. Electricity access facilitates the introduction of ICTs into the classroom such as computers, multimedia and televisions. Electrified schools can enable systems to recruit and retain better qualified teachers, and have been correlated with improvements on both test scores and graduation rates. As one study states, electricity “allows the access of lower-income people to lighting, communication, as well as a variety of educational delivery opportunities … A major impact [of electrification] has been reducing illiteracy and improving the quality of education”. Electricity and Education has a strong correlation (above 66%) with electricity consumption per capita and higher scores on the education index—a proxy for the mean years of schooling a student receives—across 120 countries(Makoto,2008). “The inverse is also true: schools without electricity tend to perform more poorly than electrified counterparts”.

In conclusion, if our Government is able to provide electricity, it will create a positive multiplier effect on education system. It’s really not providing electricity, I may use it correctly, “its donating opportunities” to the students of the region to become productive citizens of Pakistan.

The contributor belongs to Gilgit-Baltistan. She is affiliated with an educational organization as an Academic Adviser. 

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