Up until a few weeks ago, the school children in the tiny town of El Romeral outside of La Serena in Chile’s Norte Chico were used to attending a school without electricity.
“We didn’t have lights. The children had never used the internet and we were only 20 minutes away from places with all those things,” Margarita Marín, principal and teacher at the school, told La Tercera.
In the winter, the school’s children would arrive to dark classrooms, and while a small electric generator allowed employees to perform basic tasks, it was never enough to run a computer.
Now those days are in the past. At the end of October, 14 solar panels were installed that will change the face of education in El Romeral forever. The project was brought about by the GDF SUEZ international power company, the non-profit Desafío Levantemos Chile, and with additional assistance from the Universidad de Chile’s engineering school.
“You don’t realize the value of energy, light and internet, when you’re connected all the time,” Álvaro Morales, spokesperson for Desafío Levantamos Chile described. “That’s what I learned when I arrived in El Romeral. It was a different world.”
While the organizations had come in with just the idea of installing solar panels, after meeting with students and faculty, they decided to contribute a new school bus, a soccer field, and a computer room. The organizations involved hoped that these improvements would lead to much more than just temporary fixes.
“We won’t leave them alone, we want this project to stand the test of time, so we can really change the education of these children,” Pablo Villarino Cooperate Subjects Manager for GDF SUEZ Chile said. He explained that the company would train members of the community in maintaining the solar panels.
“This isn’t simple welfare. At the end of the day, we want them to be able to maintain the school on their own,” Villarino said.