Simon Gicharu promises 24hr services at REA

Kenya: The Rural Electrification Authority (REA) plans to connect some 11,000 public primary schools with electricity by mid next year at a cost of Sh12 billion.

Overall, the country has 21,222 primary schools out of which 10,157 have electricity. But REA intends to complete electrification of the remaining 11,062 by the end of the next financial year.

Work is ongoing to connect power to some 5,000 primary schools in the current fiscal year while the next phase to connect the remaining 6,065 will be finalised in the 2014/2015 financial year.

New REA chairman Simon Gicharu said the completion of the connection would facilitate the rolling out of the laptop project.

Create employment

Speaking when he took over his REA office at the Chancery Building, Gicharu challenged the authority to provide   24-hour services. He said this was necessary to realise the dream of delivering electricity to the rural population, create employment and reduce rural-urban migration.

“I want to ensure that we operate maximally and ensure that we open the rural areas, light villages and schools in line with Vision 2030,” said Gicharu. He said he would ensure the rural population access electricity to start income generating projects to improve their standard of living.

“The Jubilee Government will make sure that every village is lit to cut down on crime rate and ensure an enabling environment for Kenyans to eke a living without necessarily having to migrate to Nairobi to seek to jobs,” he said.

Gicharu swapped roles with Faisal Abbas who has been chairman REA and who will now chair the Geothermal Development Company (GDC). Gicharu said his appointment to chair REA was “more relevant”.

“I am an accomplished educationist and the new opportunity enables me to take a leading role in provision of infrastructural support in readiness for the rollout of the laptop project that is a key flagship project of the Jubilee Government,” he said.

Challenging assignment

Mr Abbas said he would take the new “challenging assignment” at the GDC, but maintained he would deliver on his mandate.

“The President had reasons for swapping us. Ours now is to work to move the country forward,” he said.

REA is implementing the electrification of the primary schools through grid extension in areas that are near the existing grid and also through provision of solar PVs in areas that are far away from the grid network.

The agency has extended electricity supply to 4,400 primary schools through grid extension and to 600 schools in the off grid areas through provision of solar PVs. The provision of electricity supply include connection and wiring of at least one classroom

The Mount Kenya university founder said the agency will jump start rural entrepreneurship by connecting power to customers in the vicinity of primary schools such as homes, businesses and other public facilities.