Kazakhstan’s classrooms are in the frontline of the battle against global warming, with green technology helping to make schools more energy efficient while at the same time giving the pupils a memorable lesson in sustainability.
"The first thing that springs to mind when you think about schools is learning and grades. But these are impossible without proper basic conditions like warmth and good light,” says Tatyana Nemtsan, head teacher of Vyacheslavskaya School, in Arnasay, Akmola Region.
Tatyana’s school provides these basic needs via an array of innovative new technologies, making it a role model for energy efficiency in Kazakhstan. Solar panels, installed by UNDP, connect the school to warm water and help it save up to 50 per cent on its electricity bills.
“I feel just like at home in this school,” says year nine pupil Alexander Bartkevich. “I like the way it’s so ingenious and everything you can see here is energy-efficient – it’s like smart technology itself,” he adds.
UNDP helped the school put in place new energy-efficient windows so that heat does not escape the building anymore. Similar measures have been applied in a series of pilot schools across Kazakhstan, helping them make large savings.
“Poor lighting can be the cause of serious health problems such as bad vision and splitting headaches. Flickering lights and the buzzing noise made by old equipment are the usual reasons for such symptoms,” says Syrym Nurgaliyev, manager of the UNDP project which helped install LED lighting in classrooms.
The use of such lamps helped the school reduce its power consumption, saving US$115 per year, while lighting quality increased ten-fold. Using improved lighting technology helped Vyacheslavka School cut its power consumption by a staggering 80 per cent.
Along with these innovative solutions, the school came up with the idea to create its own underground greenhouse using phytodiode lamps which emit light that halves the growing time for plants. Fresh vegetables are now available in the school all year around.
A related UNDP project was such a success at School No. 25 in Astana that two of its students, Maxim Upilkov and Dariya Kozhakhmetova, recently won third place in a competition organised by the school. Under the supervision of their physics teacher, Maxim and Dariya compared the energy efficiency of their homes and other residential buildings, and quantified the cost-saving benefits of upgrading to smart energy.
“We’d never thought that energy efficiency could be such an interesting niche for research,” say Maxim and Dariya. “Not to mention that it’s given us an incentive to make a difference in our surroundings.”
Besides saving the school money, energy issues have also been integrated into the curriculum. This helps teachers and students better understand the relevance of energy efficiency in their lives.
“Our students are now able to focus on their lessons, we have reduced heat loss and our utility bills went down in 2015,” says Sairan Gaisina, head teacher of Astana’s School No. 25. “The changes create environmental benefits, too, as we have significantly reduced our greenhouse gas emissions. This makes us proud.”