The tale of self-made engineer Corled Nkosi, who electrified Kasangazi Village in Mzimba, has been told too many times.
The young man generates hydropower using scrap-yard motors to show he is sick and tired of living without electricity to light homes and power electrical appliances in his village.
Nkosi had no formal training when he planted his rusty dynamos on Kasangazi River to deliver power for all in his village and surrounding homesteads. It also powers some businesses in the rural locality.
The 300-volts hydropower project has earned him the Commonwealth Point of Light Award from Queen Elizabeth II of Britain.
As the village reaps the benefits of the Nkosi’s ingenuity, Kasangazi Primary School has not been left out.
Nkosi refuses to keep the knowledge about electricity to himself.
Instead, he is mentoring some young men in his village to take care of the power plant
Elvin Nyirenda, a 16-year-old boy at the remote primary school, is among Nkosi’s students.
The Standard Seven pupil, who has received training in electricity generation, persuaded the group to electrify the school cut off from the national grid powered by Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi.
He says the learners used to face numerous problems due to lack of affordable energy for lighting.
“We were using torches powered by dry cells, which are expensive and short-lived. Even solar power could not supply reliable energy when the skies were cloudy,” narrates the learner.
Selfless Nkosi is happy that the learners at the school—including his 13-year-old cousin Sankhani, now in Standard Five—are benefitting from the extension of his rural mini-grid.
As envisaged by the innovator, electricity helps children in the community study until late in the night instead of going to sleep shortly after sunset.
His famous contribution towards improving the quality of education has made him a hero in his community.
To Nyirenda, the benefits are discernible.
“Nowadays, learners who want to study at night happily do so without any problems. In the past, we were limited by the lifespan of batteries,” he says.
Children in the country’s largest district, with villages far apart, often travel long distances to get to school.
Learners preparing to sit Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education and Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations mostly lodge in self-boarding near the schools.
The sight of MSCE candidates reading in the glow of light bulbs personifies how Nkosi’s electricity project is assisting secondary school students to improve their performance in school.
The lighting also improves their security as they occupy some of the electrified homes in the village.
School management committee member Doreen Mumba says girls in self-boarding settings are somehow safe from sexual attacks likely to expose them to unwanted pregnancies, child marriages and quitting school.
“Besides, we are happy that the learners usually go back to school around 6pm for evening studies and special classes arranged to improve learners performance,” she says.
The skills Nkosi has imparted to boys who took it upon themselves to electrify the school thrill school authorities.
Chandiwira Chawinga, headteacher at Kasangazi, says it is amazing the rural learners have more time to study.
He states that the make-up classes give teachers the ease to finish some lessons that would not have been delivered if the school had no electricity.
“We appreciate that the young trainees felt it was important that their fellow learners benefit from the electricity Nkosi generates at Kasangazi,” he notes.
In this way, electricity is improving the quality, equity and efficacy of teaching and learning in line with the Malawi Education Sector Improvement Project (Mesip).
The initiative promotes equity and community participation to, among other things, ensure the majority of learners based in rural areas get access to facilities readily available to the urban few.
Interestingly, communities surrounding the school have embraced the project and they contribute fully to various interventions, including electrification and the construction of learning shelters and changing rooms.
The remedial classes initiated by teachers accelerate learning for children at risk of lagging behind in terms of learning outcomes.
Fidess Msowoya, director of education, youth and sports in Mzimba, hails the spirit Mesip instils in community members close to schools.
“The project is an eye-opener and its activities provoke the community to take up the challenge of developing their schools,” she says. “People are encouraged to do things on their own without being pushed or waiting for donors.”
For Msowoya, this is vital for the improvement of education services in rural communities.
“Schools with numerous challenges and those that were not producing good results have improved their grades and pass rates as well as retention of learners,” she says.
Mesip national coordinator Chris Naunje is happy that the project is contributing towards enhancing the quality of education services in constrained schools. “With communities that understand the importance of education and are willing to contribute to improve teaching and learning, the performance can only get better with Mesip,” he says.