By Reisky Handika, Kopernik Fellow
People say children are the most honest critics. And also the most brutal ones. Ergo, why don't you ask them whether they like solar lanterns or not?
Meet Rio. He is eleven and fifth grade in the primary school in Galinggang, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. I asked him one day whether he likes the d.light S250 solar lantern which reached his family through Kopernik's Switch on Kalimantan, Indonesia project.
“Of course I do,” he said.
“Really? Compared to kerosene lamps?” I probed.
“By far! I don’t like using a kerosene lamp to study at night.”
“Why do you prefer the solar lantern to a kerosene lamp?”
“The solar lantern produces good and clean lighting, unlike a kerosene lamp that emits yellow light and thick black smoke,” he replied.
“So, what was it like studying back then with a kerosene lamp before you had the solar lantern?”
“I never studied at night before.”
I then met a young girl. Her name was Siti and she was in the sixth grade.
“Siti, do you like the solar light?” I asked.
Siti shyly nodded.
Quietly she answered, “Good lighting.”
“Do you use it each night to help you do your homework?”
Siti replied simply, “Yes.”
It was another story for Tubi, who is in the fifth grade. Before buying a solar lantern, Tubi’s family used kerosene lamps to light their house at night. This meant Tubi and his brother had to use this mode of lighting to study. However, due to the kerosene lamp’s dim, yellowish light, Tubi and his brother often fought with each other to move the kerosene lamp closer. They had to put the lamp very close to their books in order to be able to read and do their homework. Alas, the lamp often tipped over and kerosene poured out of the bottle, wetting the boys’ books.
“Many of our books were broken and smelly, because of the kerosene,” said Tubi. “But now, my books are dry. And I don’t have to fight with my brother any more over the solar lantern.”
Another boy named Rizal shared similar feelings. Rizal and his younger brother, Angga, often moved from room to room in their house while doing their homework. This was because their family didn’t have many kerosene lamps, and they needed to be shared between everyone. So when their mother needed the lamp to help her cook dinner, Rizal and Angga had to move to the kitchen and do their homework beside the stove.
“It was hard to concentrate. I had to move here and there along with the kerosene lamp,” Rizal recalled. “But now I can stay still in one place to finish my homework. I don’t have to move around the house anymore. The light of the solar lantern is bright enough for everyone,” explained Rizal.
Angga nodded in agreement in the background.
Then I met with Mujib, a second-grader with chubby body and face. Mujib was putting on his happy face throughout our entire interview. He is the kind of kid who never appears to be sad. His mouth always seems to be smiling.
That afternoon, Mujib was visited by his two friends, Yadi and Fajar. When I asked Mujib what he thought about the solar lantern, he exclaimed one word and one word only:
(Nyarak means bright in the Dayak language.)
Reisky Handika has been conducting an impact assessment of Kopernik's Switch on Kalimantan, Indonesia project, in collaboration with a research team from Japan's Keio University. The report will be published in early 2014. To read more blogs from Reisky about solar lights in Central Kalimantan, please visit the Kopernik website.