The Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI), which is based in Spain, has signed accords with several Latin American republics to provide sustainable energy for schools in the region. The OEI, following up an accord signed with authorities in Mexico’s Puebla state, has now inked agreements with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to provide $1.5 million in aid to each of these countries in order to install solar panels in at least 100 schools in each country. The host countries for the “Lights for Learning” program will provide logistical and technical support.
The cost for electrifying each school is approximately $4000. The OEI expects to obtain some financing from international nonprofits and business and thus reach as many as 80,000 schools throughout Latin America. This would mean electrifying 7,300 schools (41 percent of the total) in Honduras, 212 in Costa Rica (more than 2 percent), more than 400 in El Salvador (6.8 percent), 4000 schools in Guatemala (9 percent) and 4850 in Nicaragua (48 percent).
Most of the schools are located in rural and impoverished areas of Latin America in areas where electricity is sparse and where installation is costly. The OEI program would also provide computers and Internet access to the schools in order to bridge the effective digital gap in technology and communications. Some telecommunications companies have expressed an interest in wiring the schools involved.
Since the February 2012 signing of the accords in Central America, OEI Secretary General Álvaro Marchesi will travel to South America in order to present the program there. In a statement, Marchesi said “We must achieve a more equitable education of better quality for everyone, which is not possible if schools and pupils have no electricity or connectivity. The ‘Lights for Learning’ program seeks to open up the world to people living in communities that have long been forgotten.”
The OEI brings together Portugal and Spain with their former colonies in the Americas to discuss and then enable development solutions. Among the celebrities involved in OEI projects is former Spanish tennis star Conchita Martinez.