Michael and Peter’s Story

Solar Powered Innovation is lighting up young lives in Sierra Leone.

Electricity is essential for learning in rural Sierra Leone, meaning the difference between being able to study at night, or skipping homework.  For most students in rural communities, children join their parents on the farm or market to help earn money after school and return home late to study. 

This means that their studies are cut short by lack of light, resulting in fewer hours spent studying during the night-time quiet.  As a result, most of them end up dropping out of school or relocating if they want to further their education. 

Innovation for education.

In 2021, two young people living in Bo district – Michael Nabieu and Peter George – saw the need to help.  Peter has been designing novel inventions since he was a child and developed a brilliant idea to provide both a reliable source of light and an alarm system to provide safety for children walking home late.

However, even though Peter and Michael had the knowledge, passion and skills for the project, it was hard for them to bring their vision to life without help. They received some support from local organisations, but it was not enough to really make the project fly and meet the demand of the large local communities. This is where Restless Development stepped in and helped to finance the innovation via the Youth Fund from the Catalyzing Youth Leadership for Education Reform project funded by the Peoples Postcode Trust.

He invented a solar-powered backpack, fitted with a light for studying and a personal alarm system, to help improve the educational outcomes of children in low-income communities. 

The team is now providing 150 solar-powered backpacks to school pupils in three rural communities of Bo District.  It is also training young people in these communities to ensure the project is sustainable.

The invention that changed lives.

The solar-powered backpack is a creative solution to a huge problem that is holding children and young people back from achievement. It is also a sustainable and affordable solution. The backpack is equipped with a solar panel that can generate electricity, which is then used to power the alarm system and light source.This means that children can carry their books and school supplies in their backpack during the day, and use it as a light source to study at night.

So far the group has also trained 80 young people on solar bank power products, and has mapped out more communities and students who can benefit from the catalysing project. 

As young people, we have the mandate to learn and implement more skills in order to effectuate change in our communities.


Powershifting for change.

“Power Shifting is about stepping outside existing systems and challenging the status quo.  This means that instead of programme models designed by funders, we give resources, space and support to young people to co-create their own programmes.  Their creativity drives the change,” says Lesley Garura, Sierra Leone Hub Director for Restless Development.

Young people are at the heart of everything we do.

Lesley Garura

In Sierra Leone, by shifting power to local youth-led Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), we have witnessed innovations that allow young people in rural areas to transform their success in school and college.  For example, through the Youth Fund, which directly funds youth-led initiatives, we recently supported two young people who designed and distributed solar-powered backpacks, so that children working outside the home after school are able to complete their school studies at night.

Practical innovations like these that can solve the daily challenges young people face in Sierra Leone.  It is a power shifting approach that has let this idea fly.

Lesley Garura