Climate Action Spotlight: Solar Lamp Project Lighting the Way in Guinea-Bissau

  • Location: Portugal
  • Educator: Ines Rodrigues
  • School name: Escola Secundária de Gondomar  
  • Students’ age: 15 to 18 years old
  • Amount of students involved: 16 students

The lack of access to electricity is a problem affecting about 760 million people worldwide, and the students of Escola Secundária de Gondomar are researching and finding solutions. They began this journey by researching Guinea-Bissau, one of the countries affected by the problem. With guidance from their educator, Ines Rodrigues, they learned they could use simple materials and harness the power of the sun to generate electricity for communities in the region.  They chose to build a solar lamp using plastic bottles that refract light during the day to lighthouses while storing energy in a battery for usage at night.

After gathering relevant knowledge from several textbooks, they built a simple circuit that allowed the lamp to work at night. After testing the prototype, the students presented the project at the school’s Open Day for the school community. Following their success at the showcase, the Escola Secundária de Gondomar students partnered with Educafrica, a non-governmental organization (NGO) supporting the development projects in Portuguese-speaking African nations. They took the prototype to Guinea-Bissau, where they trained local teachers to replicate it; the prototype costs roughly five euros to produce and can last up to 5 years.

Implementing solar lamps in Guinea-Bissau communities has brought about profound positive changes. Locals have to rely on kerosene lamps, which not only emit harmful fumes leading to respiratory illnesses but are also expensive and often inaccessible for people living in remote locations. The risk of infernal accidents caused by indoor fires for lighting purposes has also been significantly reduced.

Beyond safety and accessibility, the prototypes are also more affordable and durable, with a single bottle of water serving as a sustainable power source for approximately 4 to 5 years. The LED lamps provide reliable illumination for 6 to 8 hours every night, ensuring that these communities have access to light when needed.

The success of this project reached far beyond the immediate communities it served. It garnered international attention, with numerous institutions worldwide expressing interest in replicating the initiative. In response, the students went the extra mile, creating a step-by-step video guide in both Portuguese and English. They even conducted online workshops for schools around the world—even in schools in China and Angola.A student from Escola Secundária de Gondomar who participated in the Climate Action Project shared:

“Being part of this project made me realize there is still so much to do for our planet. I really enjoyed connecting with other students from Turkey and India and discussing ways to avoid polluting our rivers.”

The impact of this project alone serves as a source of inspiration. Although the students who initiated this project have since graduated from secondary school, their work continues to make a difference in countless lives across the globe. 

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