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BEFIT Set To Roll Out Solar-Powered EdTech to All Primary Schools in Malawi by 2029

13th February 2024

An image split diagonally. In the top left a man in construction gear is installing a solar panel on the roof of a house. In the bottom right is a group of schoolchildren sitting on the floor and using tablet devices to learn.

[Lilongwe, Malawi] Building on its commitment to enhance primary education, the Malawian government’s Building Education Foundations through Innovation & Technology (BEFIT) initiative is set to transform the country’s learning landscape. This significant initiative aims to leverage solar-powered educational technology (EdTech) to boost Malawian children’s learning outcomes. 

Targeting the issue of poor educational outcomes amongst primary-school-aged children, the initiative seeks to enhance basic maths and reading skills through tablet-based educational technology (EdTech) interventions. Through a solar electrification partnership with Sun King, BEFIT plans to electrify 6,000 Malawian schools by 2029 to power EdTech solutions and elevate educational outcomes for 3.8 million children.

In Malawi, of children aged 7 to 14, only one in ten children possess foundational numeracy skills. Further, only two in ten have basic reading abilities. Led by the Malawian government and supported by international NGOs such as Imagine Worldwide, VSO, and onebillion, as well as local NGOs CRECCOM, OSSEDI, Rays of Hope, Ulalo, and YONECO, BEFIT targets primary school children in grades 1 to 4 literacy and numeracy skill development through EdTech. This initiative is aligned with the national curriculum and will complement the ongoing efforts of teachers across the country. 

“Malawi is determined to invest in the development of 21st-century human capital to build an inclusively wealthy, self-reliant, upper middle-income country by 2063 and meet 2030 Sustainable Development goals. The Ministry of Education is doing this work through innovative and transformative approaches to foundational learning without leaving any child behind. BEFIT is Malawi’s commitment to our children — our future — providing them with the literacy and numeracy skills, as well as digital skills, they need to reach their full potential.”

Dr. Joshua Valeta, Director of Open Distance and e-Learning, Malawi Ministry of Education

How can EdTech boost educational outcomes?

Classroom overcrowding, insufficient learning materials, and a dearth of trained teachers necessitate large-scale, scalable educational solutions in Malawi. BEFIT notes that research indicates that EdTech interventions are particularly impactful in developing country contexts.

For EdTech to succeed, appropriate educational systems, resources, technological frameworks, and energy infrastructure are essential. Currently, only one in three Malawian schools have access to electricity, this figure drops to 10% in rural schools. Further, the country lacks culturally, linguistically, and educationally relevant tech-delivered educational content.

“What sets the BEFIT programme apart is that it is led by the Malawi government and can be implemented in any context as it does not require internet access and it uses solar power to charge tablets. The software is in the local language, and rigorous research has shown it produces strong learning gains.”

Dr. Antonie Chigeda, Executive Director, Imagine Worldwide LTD, Malawi

Why solar?

BEFIT has formed a public-private partnership with Sun King, the world’s leading off-grid energy provider, to meet the electricity needs of off-grid and weak-grid schools. Sun King has developed a customised solar solution for BEFIT, involving solar panels on roofs and solar inverters and accompanying batteries in secure rooms in school facilities. Sun King’s solar solutions can be turned off remotely to counter theft. 

The company maintains an expansive and growing network of trained solar professionals in Malawi. Sun King’s local presence will facilitate maintenance, as needed, and ongoing support to ensure the long-term and reliable use of BEFIT’s solar-powered systems long into the future.

“By bringing solar power to often remote Malawian schools, we’re also teaching communities about solar energy and expanding Sun King’s presence into new areas. It’s a win-win; local jobs are created, more people gain access to solar services, schools gain enduring and affordable solar services.”

Levi Kanyundo, Senior Operations Associate, Sun King

BEFIT’s Scalable and Replicable Model

In 2023, the inaugural year of this tablet-based education programme, BEFIT rolled out solar-powered EdTech to 500 schools, enriching the educational experience of nearly 300,000 students. Looking ahead, by 2029, BEFIT will serve 6,000 schools.

Malawi is among the first nations to scale a digital personalised learning solution countrywide. The initiative serves as a blueprint for other countries struggling with poor educational capacity and limited access to electricity. In 2024, the programme’s founding partners will roll out new solar-powered EdTech projects across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Seeking renewable energy solutions for your initiatives? Reach out to Sun King at [email protected] to explore how our solar technology can power your projects.

To learn more about the project, read Sun King’s BEFIT factsheet.