Electricity Use In Schools At Night

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In many developing countries, the majority of social institutions (e.g. schools) in rural areas do not have access to electricity, which leads to inferior education services in comparison to electrified institutions (e.g. in Uganda) .

If schools have access to electricity, classes for children or adults can be take place even in the evening hours due to improved lighting. Furthermore, modern electronic technologies and media, such as projectors, Internet, films, etc., can be used for educational purposes.

Next to the improved conditions for reading and studying of school children, there are maybe other impacts of electricity in schools. School facilities might be used for other purposes than education, even more so after they are electrified.

This article tries to identify who else uses electricity in schools after sunset and for what purposes.

“Access to energy for community infrastructure (such as schools, health facilities, and government offices) can lead to substantial improvements in service delivery, human capital, and governance.”[1]


This might also happened via the use of school facilities (and the electricity offered by them) to other people in the community than teachers and students.

Electricity – Education – Nexus

Access to electricity in education facilities increases the time students spend at school and improves children’s and teachers’ experience.[1]

Social institutions are in need of high-quality illumination for a wide range of applications: rural schools use artificial light to provide classes during cloudy days or at night and for staff/student quarters. Next to lighting, schools further need electricity to use computers for administrative purposes and also for other electrical appliances such as printers, TV, radio, radio cassette, and microscopes, a study in Rwanda shows.[2][3]

Other purposes for electrification at school mentioned by the researched schools in Rwanda are: modern communication skills with computer classes for students, easier preparation and revision of homework and exams, improved security situation (lights used by guards), usage of electronic teaching materials, phone and radio charging at school for teachers.[3]

Power supply in schools allows use of multimedia tools and better preparation.”[4] Hatlelid and Aass (2016) underscore that “electricity access is an important measure for attracting high skilled teachers to work in rural schools.”[2]


Electricity improves education in the following ways:[5]

  • Lighting appliances enable children to study after sunset
  • Use of electrical appliances narrow the digital divide through Information communication Technologies (ICTs)
  • Improved literacy rate
  • Higher enrolment rates
  • Rise in years of completed schooling


Definition and Measuring Framework of Energy Access in Community Institutions

While most developed countries have norms on lighting intensities that should be provided in e.g. schools, hospitals etc., there is no universal definition of “enough light”.

The Global Tracking Framework for Measuring Energy Access sets out a Multi-tier Matrix for Measuring Access in Community Institutions.[1] However, the huge diversity found in different communities in terms of their available facilities and resultant energy demands make it challenging to assemble a single comprehensive framework to measure energy access for community.

Schools: Location for Education and Other Meetings

Access_to_Modern_Energy in schools can remove restrictions on school times making night classes a viable possibility or allowing schools to double as community centers in the evenings. Electrification can also affect education infrastructure through the integration of modern resources such as computers and internet access.[6]

Furthermore, successful school electrification programs often couple their activities with community training and capacity building.[7] Combining the benefits of electrification for schools with benefits for the community depends on the people involved. Directing resources to people and institutions was identified as a good strategy for energy programs.[8]

Often, school buildings sit empty after the end of the normal school day. Encouraging community groups to use the facilities is not only good use of resources but also provides opportunities for the school to get involved in community projects.[9]

Many schools close their property to the public after school hours due to concerns about costs, vandalism, security, maintenance, and liability in the event of injury. However, schools have facilities already available in communities. Therefore, building duplicate facilities does not make sense.[10] Also, schools budgets might be at ease in case they can rent out their facilities to other purposes.

The OECD observe that there is a clear trend of other uses of school buildings and they conclude that “benefits of this trend to the school, the community and the education community appear to substantially outweigh the more traditional limitations on the use of school facilities.”[11]

Where schools are expected to recover costs from out of school computer usage and/or electricity use, they often need training to implement cost-recovering measures because they lack the relevant entrepreneurship and business development skills.[12]

There are five basic categories of after-hour school activities:[11]

  1. Adult learning
  2. Resource use and information dissemination
  3. Cultural and social
  4. Youth activities, including day care
  5. Health, leisure, and recreation

This article categorizes those 5 after-hour school activities according to three different sets of purposes: 1. education purposes like adult learning and night classes and 2. Other purposes like Information Technology and 3. social activities. Furthermore, all purposes of the three first categories might be used by schools to enhance their income generating activities (4th purpose).


Education: Adult Learning and Night Classes

Electrified schools offer evening classes for young students and for adults after work. Due to the lighting in the facilities, even after sunset (in many countries around 6pm) classes can be conducted in schools.

Comparing electrified with non-electrified schools in Rwanda, Lenz (2015) showed that unconnected schools (even with generators or solar panel) do not offer evening classes (after 6pm), while one third of the electrified schools do.[3]

Some schools also use electricity for other educational purposes (e.g. computer classes).[2]

While many schools in remote areas have difficulties to attract enough pupils going to school, in other regions a shortage of classrooms can be observed. In those areas, electricity allows for night classes making us of the “limited space that would otherwise be vacant in the evening”[13]. In Afghanistan, e.g. student numbers of night classes doubled between 2012 and 2014.[13]


Other Uses: Information Technologies including Resource and Information Dissemination

'Telecentres' have received a great deal of support and attention from international donor organizations and NGOs in the past decade; often schools are involved.

Since 1999, World Bank programs (and others) have implemented Telecenters (first in Zimbabwe): schools open their ICT telecenters to the community after the close of the school day and on holidays.[14]

Find more information here: http://www.infodev.org/articles/quick-guide-telecentres-international-institutions-and-donor-agencies

Schools sometimes face difficulties paying for their equipment and identify suitable power solutions. Trucano (2014) mentions access to electricity among the top five challenges related to the use of ICTs in education in developing countries. Next to affordability, accessibility, connectivity and usability, electricity is a decisive factor for ICTs in schools. While people find resources to charge their mobile phones, this is not always the case with schools equipment. Considerable larger energy demand and responsible persons that do not look for out-of-the-box power solutions “because they haven’t been convinced of the utility”.[15]


Other Uses: Cultural and Social Activities

Electrified schools can have a direct impact on community life, allowing for social gatherings in the evenings (where they feel safer than outside)[10]:

After classes, schools might host a wide range of activities, including community groups, training sessions for local sports teams, monthly cinema nights, and local authority, and business meetings.[16]

Communities and schools, both benefit from a good relationship. E.g. in Thailand, schools receive financial contributions from communities and temples via school gatherings. Schools in turn can help communities to get pupils involved in pressing communal issues and provide space for community gatherings.[17] Schools are often very credible authorities in the community.[18] Therefore, often community meetings are held in schools.

Other options for school activities during the night might be:

  • Cinemas
  • Community theaters
  • Awareness raising activities by NGOs
  • Training sessions for vocational courses

Income Generating Activities by Schools

Schools’ budgets might be at ease in case they can rent out their facilities to other purposes.

Schools may lease the facilities (and/or computer labs) and set different rates for business and community groups.[16]

Using and promoting ICT equipment for other purposes than school activities and classes is very important for schools because small fees paid by the community for services help support the recurrent costs of hardware maintenance, power, supplies, and connectivity.[14]

Furthermore, electricity gives the teachers the possibility to charge their phones. Community members can be charged a fee to recharge their phones on school facilities.


In general, there are very few examples that even mention who else uses school facilities that have been electrified. The following examples mentioned other uses of schools in the evening.

Malawi: Community Rural Electrification Development (CRED) Project

The core functionality required by the schools was evening lighting. However, additional evening lighting was included also for community purposes. Social benefits of the electrification of the schools included the possibility of evening meetings involving various community groups, which encouraged widespread community interaction.[19] That means schools are used by those groups because it was electrified.

Gambia Solar Project

The Gambia Solar Project has installed rural PV systems in seven schools, one health post and one laboratory for working animals, at a rate of one or two installations per year since 2006. Having completed PV installations in schools for an entire educational cluster, impact data will be collated to assess the socio-economic impact that providing lighting and power to the local schools has on the wider community.[20]

The paper from 2011 stated that an impact assessment will include among other aspects also the “income generation subsidizing system and school maintenance from small phone charging businesses”. However, we could not detect such an impact assessment available freely in the internet. The intent alone to generate income based on the electricity available to the schools shows that other educational purposes in schools are possible. Furthermore, it seems like the program expects to have wider impact on the community letting people use the school facilities.

Rwanda: Impacts of Rural Electrification on Schools

Conducting research on electrification impacts, Lenz (2015) interviewed 38 school principals in Rwanda. Half having access to the electricity grid, half of them had no grid connection (or a generator/solar panel).

Results showed, that connected schools have frequently more appliances (100% have computers), offer night classes (30%) and are more likely to offer computer classes (40%).

The two main purposes for schools to need electricity is lighting at night and secondly, electrified schools also report to use computers for administrative purposes.[3] Most schools used electricity to improve administrative tasks, but a considerable share of schools also improved the curriculum and extended offered services (via electric appliances and lighting).[3] Whether or not they intended to use the school for other purposes was not researched here specifically.

Conclusion: Electricity Use in Schools After Hours

This article provides a thorough research among publications that deal with the topic of usage of schools outside of the regular school days due to access of electricity.

As of now (2017), there are no studies that examine the impacts of electricity access of schools on other uses (outside of school main business teaching). Therefore, this article can only be a first attempt in collecting information on who uses electricity in schools after sunset. Further research is necessary to quantify how often schools are used after hours and by whom exactly.

Next to students and teachers, other groups of a community might use the school at night (see bullet points in the table below for details on those groups).

In general, it is expected that an active school involvement into the community (and vice versa) is very good for the economic and social development of people.[21]

The following activities are mentioned to take place in schools after dark:

Table 1: Activities in schools after sunset, categorized by different purposes.

1. Education Purposes

2. Other IT purposes

3. Social Activities

4. Income Generating Purposes

  • Night classes
  • Training sessions for vocational courses
  • Computer classes for outsiders (other than pupils)
  • Renting out ICT facilities (including computer rooms, phone charging equipment), sometimes even planned as a telecentre within the school
  • Non-profit community groups meetings and activities
  • Community gatherings
  • Cinemas
  • Community theaters
  • Awareness raising activities by NGOs
  • Might include all other purposes of the three first categories:
  • Renting facilities (rooms with lighting)
  • Phone charging facilities for teachers, students and paying clients

If you have other uses of schools at night, please feel free to add your experiences here.

Schools and communities both benefit mutually from increased use of school facilities outside the normal school business. However, schools might need support to identify the most suitable and efficient use of the facilities at night. A literature review from 2011 sees fairly strong evidence that electricity in schools and improve the community-school relationships. E.g. in Thailand, schools receive financial contributions from communities and temples via school gatherings.[21]

Further information


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Mikul Bhatia and Nicolina Angelou, BEYOND CONNECTIONS. Energy Access Redefined (Energy Sector Management Assistance Program | The World Bank, 2015), https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/24368/Beyond0connect0d000technical0report.pdf?sequence=1.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ingrid Bredesen Hatlelid and Jens Aass, ‘The Socio-Economic Impact of Renewable Energy in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Ripple Effect Analysis of the ASYV Solar Power Plant in Rwanda’ 2016, https://brage.bibsys.no/xmlui/bitstream/handle/11250/2432146/masterthesis.PDF?sequence=1.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Luciane Lenz and Anicet Munyehirwe, Does Large Scale Infrastructure Investment Alleviate Poverty? Impacts of Rwanda’s Electricity Access Roll-Out Program (Essen: Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, 2015), http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:101:1-201505192414.
  4. Phil Goodwin, ‘Join the Fight against Extreme Poverty’, ONE, 8 October 2013, https://www.one.org/us/2013/10/08/the-dark-side-of-education/.
  5. Makoto Kanagawa and Toshihiko Nakata, ‘Assessment of Access to Electricity and the Socio-Economic Impacts in Rural Areas of Developing Countries’, Energy Policy 36 (2008): 2016–29.
  6. EarthTrends Update May 2009, Energy Access for Development: http://www.homeofgeography.org/uk/news_2009/EarTrend_May09.pdf
  7. Benjamin Sovacool and Ivan Vera, ‘Electricity and Education: The Benefits, Barriers, and Recommendations for Achieving the Electrification of Primary and Secondary Schools’ (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2014), https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/1608Electricity%20and%20Education.pdf.
  8. Daniel M. Kammen, ‘Bringing Power to the People: Promoting Appropriate Energy Technologies in the Developing World’, Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 41, no. 5 (June 1999): 10–15, doi:10.1080/00139159909604632.
  9. Yelena Mitrofanova, ‘Building Community-Schools Relationships (Communityschools) | Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County | University of Nebraska–Lincoln’, 2004, http://lancaster.unl.edu/community/articles/communityschools.shtml.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Safe Routes to School National Partnership, ‘Shared Use of School and Community Facilities | Safe Routes to School National Partnership’, 2013, http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/state/bestpractices/shareduse.
  11. 11.0 11.1 John B. Lyons, ‘Alternative Use of K-12 School Buildings: Opportunities for Expanded Uses.’, 2000, https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED441327.
  12. Andy Cawthera, ‘Computers in Secondary Schools in Developing Countries: Costs and Other Issues (Including Original Data from South Africa and Zimbabwe).’, 2002, https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED469130.
  13. 13.0 13.1 UNESCO, ‘Sustainable Development in the Least Developed Countries – Towards 2030’ (UNESCO, Paris, 2016), http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002448/244835E.pdf.
  14. 14.0 14.1 N’Dri Thérèse Assié-Lumumba, Cyberspace, Distance Learning, and Higher Education In Developing Countries: Old and Emergent Issues Of Access, Pedagogy, and Knowledge Production (BRILL, 2004).
  15. Michael Trucano, ‘In Search of the Ideal Educational Technology Device for Developing Countries’, Text, Edutech, (10 January 2014), http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech/ideal-educational-technology-device.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Nazli Hussein, ‘Generating Additional Income for Your School’, The Key for School Leaders, 2016, https://schoolleaders.thekeysupport.com/administration-and-management/financial-management/fundraising-and-grants/generating-additional-income-for-a-school/.
  17. Paul W. Glewwe et al., ‘School Resources and Educational Outcomes in Developing Countries: A Review of the Literature from 1990 to 2010’ (National Bureau of Economic Research, 2011), http://www.nber.org/papers/w17554.
  18. https://www.strath.ac.uk/media/departments/eee/frontoffice/pdf/gambia_booklet.pdf
  19. D. Frame et al., ‘A Community Based Approach for Sustainable Off-Grid PV Systems in Developing Countries’, in Power and Energy Society General Meeting, 2011 IEEE (IEEE, 2011), 1–7, http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/6039593/.
  20. 21.0 21.1 Henry Levin and Marlaine E. Lockheed, Effective Schools in Developing Countries (Routledge, 2012).