Solar Power in Schools: Let There Be Light!

A teacher at a rural school tries to angle the mirror of a sunlight-illuminated microscope towards the window to light a biology slide. A student strains his eyes in the cool darkness of a classroom to read his textbook.


Often we take for granted the role that power generation plays in everyday education. But not in rural Ethiopia. In 2014, only 12.2% of the rural Ethiopian population had access to electricity (World Bank, OECD/IEA, 2014).

Reliable access to power can be a game changer in rural schools:

  • Lights to read by can allow students to use indoor spaces for studying and use them into the early evening.
  • Microscopes can be illuminated by power instead of relying on the proximity of windows and brightness of the day.
  • Teachers can access the programs provided via Ethiopia’s educational radio and television network (EMA) to supplement their teaching.
  • Teachers and students can use technology devices, such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
  • Alternative power sources, such as solar power, can reduce the reliance on expensive non-rechargeable lithium batteries, as well as reduce the health risks of lighting a space by kerosene lamps.

Roots Ethiopia has piloted solar panel installations in one of our newer schools, Lai Bedene Primary School in the Halaba Zone. With the money saved from using solar power for their educational radio, they are now planning to purchase a television for classroom use!

The installation was so successful that we have implemented it in two more rural schools…Legama Primary School in Wolayta, and Gomora Gewada Primary School in Kembata.


Reducing barriers that hold back rural schools from delivering a quality education is just one more way that Roots Ethiopia focuses its efforts on improving schools and educational quality.

Help us to light the way to academic success for more students in every Roots Ethiopia School! DonateButton


Roots Ethiopia & h2 Empower Partner in Ethiopia

This post is contributed by Marcie Frehner, member of the 2014-2015 Volunteer Travel Team with an emphasis on arts and literacy. Marcie has been essential in developing the Roots Ethiopia/h2Empower Partnership and has developed a delightful friendship with the Founder of h2 Empower. 

Roots Ethiopia’s work with schools started by supplying tables, chairs, desks, and textbooks to schools in need. Over time, with donor support and a lot of hard work, Roots Ethiopia began to do more. There is a natural continuum to working with schools. First students need a place to be, they need supplies with which to work. The next step is to use these resources most effectively. Along the way, Roots Ethiopia always asked, how do we empower the local community to use these new resources best? How can we support school leadership to manage resources and use them to make the most impact in their schools and their communities?

In 2014 and 2015 I was part of the Roots Ethiopia’s travel team, finishing every evening of work in Hosanna. Every night we gathered in the hotel restaurant and briefed each other on our day. In 2014, Meghan Walsh, Roots Ethiopia’s Founder, found herself at a table next to another woman having similar conversations. They introduced themselves and shared their passion for being in Hosanna, SNNPR. It turns out this woman, Helen Boxwill, was the Founder of an organization called h2 Empower. Helen and Meghan strongly share the belief that the best way to support sustainable improvements in Ethiopian education is to empower Ethiopians to help Ethiopians. A partnership was born.

Helen has been an educator for the past 30 years, she has taught kindergarten through high school, been a Director of Language Arts and then Principal and Coordinator of a family literacy program. She spent one year as a volunteer in Ethiopia, teaching at the Hosanna Teacher Training College. While there, she worked with female students, local teachers, and set up a library system through the town, winning the Teacher of the Year Award from her sponsoring agency.  Read more about Helen’s incredible accomplishments here!

Roots Ethiopia and h2Empower, came together at a time when Roots was strategizing how to best support teachers and schools with new resources. h2Empower shared their knowledge and experience to bring us to that next level.

h2Empower’s vision is to “empower the lives they touch through supporting access to high quality education for all, helping communities develop sustainable improvement in quality of life and increasing connectivity to the global community so that all individuals can reach their highest potential for their families and our greater society.”

The h2 Empower vision compliments the goals of Roots Ethiopia perfectly! 

Roots Ethiopia’s Board of Directors has voted to help fund h2 Empower’s work over the next few months (the work is well underway and we will be updating you over the next few weeks) in the following areas AND Root’s Learning Resource Project schools are FULLY included in this exciting new phase! The collaboration includes:

Librarian Training

  • Training provided by Code Ethiopia and h2 Empower.
  • 8 days in Hosanna.
  • Includes 103 schools from the Hadiya Zone and all of the Roots Ethiopia LRP’s.
  • Training sessions will be focused on 3 different groups to address unique needs: Primary/Secondary/College. Trainers are highly qualified Ethiopian library and literacy leaders.
  • Training sessions will include experience at Hosanna’s first Community Library — which includes a children’s library, a student library, and a computer lab!

Girls Empowerment Training

  • h2 Empower will train gender club advisors and officers in order to develop concrete ways of changing attitudes towards girls and developing a culture of inclusion for all in the school and workplace.
  • Each school has a gender club serving girls to help them complete their education.
  • gender training includes developing girls sports teams, addressing girls empowerment, and discussing issues such as FGM, puberty, and early marriage.
  • Each and every government office has a gender officer to advocate for the needs of women.
  • They will use a curriculum developed by FAWE: Forum for African Women Educationalists. This curriculum has been adopted by the Ministry of Education in Ethiopia.

Your recurring monthly donation help Ethiopians to continue to develop the skills to educate their communities in profound and sustainable ways.

Roots Ethiopia Delivers 800 Books to Jajura School

This post is contributed by Lynn Steinberg, Media and Communications Director at Roots Ethiopia.

Back in September, my family and I furiously led a Learning Resource Project for a school in Jajura, Ethiopia. It was a psychotic worldwind of tweeting, overt networking, a wildly successful eBay sale called #Bags4Books, and some really good luck. Mix that with my over the top Type A work personality and somehow $15,000 was raised in under 6 weeks for The Jajura Primary School in Ethiopia. I am STILL catching my breath!

So, what has been done so far? As of early March, over 800 books were delivered to the school! When our Program Director and his local team delivered the books to Jajura they encouraged the ecstatic students to study hard and become “brilliant and moral people.” Check out their faces!!!’

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Then, the school principal registered the books right away as you can see from this awesome photo. I met this principal in person and he is all business. I have no doubt that these books are in great hands!


The Jajura Primary School is a very special place. We thank you for your support in funding this school with what they need to achieve success. Jajura, located in the Hadiya Zone of Ethiopia is a unique community that is filled with bright smiles and progressive attitudes concerning education and female rights. Seriously, check out my post on my personal blog from December! This place is S.P.E.C.I.A.L.

Overall, this was a FUN project! My family and I learned a lot about fundraising, eBay’s archaic listing system, and my need to “take a chill pill” when I have a heart led task at hand. I look forward to sharing some more updates after Meghan, the Founder of Roots Ethiopia, returns from her May visit to Ethiopia. I am going to seriously flip out in joy when I see the gender-specific toilet buildings completed. Here is the current bathroom situation in Jajura. I repeat, this is the current bathroom situation in Jajura:

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Consider reading this post from UNICEF that explains why building proper toilet facilities is so INCREDIBLY important in the developing world. Bathroom talk is a very important topic right now. In fact, Ethiopian girls miss 3-5 days of school per month, or 50 days per year, because they lack adequate supplies related to menstruation.

The Jajura Primary School will also receive locally built desks, blackboards, and bookshelves as part of this project! Thanks again for your continued support and contact us for more information about leading a Learning Resource Project in your community.

*UPDATE* Books and Shelving Delivered in Ethiopia!

In late February our Program Director delivered books and shelving to the Haile Babamo Junior School in Ethiopia. Tilahun was able to use his budget to supply the school with SIX shelves instead of the three that were planned for.

How did he do it? Local knowledge and collaboration! What Tilahun did was buy the parts for the shelves from a local wholesaler and ordered them to be cut into standard sized pieces. He then picked up the shelves personally and brought them to the school for the teachers to build themselves. He reported that the teachers were highly motivated to use their wisdom to accomplish this for their school.

Tilahun also encouraged the students to make serious use out of the donated books. He told them, “A gift is not a gift unless you properly make use of it.”

Here is a picture of the original bookshelves at the school. These were the only bookshelves before the project was initiated:

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Here are the new bookshelves that were a result of your giving, local knowledge, and community collaboration:


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Recently, Tilahun visited The Haile Babamo School and was able to deliver this amazing report,

“The Haile Bubamo school library has become very busy, seeing about forty students in the library is common, teachers are highly motivated with updated reference books, computers, and sports materials. The entire school community is working hard for the best outcomes. Hopefully, the test results will improve significantly.”

We hope you enjoy the updates of our program work as we love sharing them with you. We take enormous pride in our model of smart and strategic work, based on community-driven ideas with the needs of the children and communities at the forefront.

Please email us at if you would like to hear more about leading a project like this in Southern Ethiopia.

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Roots Ethiopia is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working in Africa, specifically helping Southern Ethiopia. Roots Ethiopia supports community identified solutions for job creation and education.