GUINEA

Power blackouts force young Guineans to study in gas stations

 How do you study for your exams if you don’t have any electricity at home? Every evening, students in the Guinean capital Conakry try to find a solution to this problem. Faced with power cuts that plunge the city into darkness after nightfall, the students take to the streets to study in the few public places where there are streetlamps that remain lit.

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Photo taken on May 29 in Bonfi by our Observer Fatoumata Diallo.

 

 

How do you study for your exams if you don’t have any electricity at home? Every evening, students in the Guinean capital Conakry try to find a solution to this problem. Faced with power cuts that plunge the city into darkness after nightfall, the students take to the streets to study in the few public places where there are streetlamps that remain lit.

 

Come nightfall, gas stations and the car park at the international airport transform into large, open-air study halls. Hundreds of primary school, high school and university students gather to study there under dim streetlights.

 

Video filmed at Conakry's international airport by our Observer Fatoumata Diallo.

 

The conditions are far from ideal, but these students don’t have much choice. Apart from those who live in the downtown area, the city’s residents only receive 45 hours of electricity a week, either between 6 p.m. and midnight, or between midnight and 8 a.m., as determined by a rotation schedule. Over the past few weeks, riots have broken out in areas that have been deprived of their turns.

 

Guinea has suffered power outages for several years now. Candidates in the last presidential election had pledged to make this issue one of their priorities. But three years on, nothing has changed.

“I muster up my courage, close my eyes and continue on my way"

Ibrahimasory Sylla, 19, is a student at Bonfi middle school. He is studying for his school’s exit exam.

 

I study every night at a gas station in the neighbourhood of Bonfi. I prefer this to staying at home studying by candlelight, because the light is brighter there. Sometimes I go there with my friends; sometimes I go by myself. It’s not just to study for exams - we also go there to read textbooks for courses that we didn’t get to finish during the year because protests prevented us from going to school.

 

The station is about two to three kilometres from my house, but there isn’t any closer place to study. I walk through dangerous areas where, sometimes, there are instances of violence and racketeering. Once, when I was with a friend, two bikers stopped and stole his mobile phone. They also slapped him. I fled. Despite this, I continue to walk through this area. I muster up my courage, close my eyes and continue on my way. I have to; it’s my future that’s at stake.

 

I usually get there at 7 p.m. You need to arrive early in order to get the best spots closest to the light. I stay there until 10 p.m., when the station closes and its employees turn off the lights. I go home, take a nap and wake up at midnight to take advantage of the electricity that is turned back on then. I study again until 3 or 4 a.m. and go to sleep. Then I wake up at 7 a.m. to go to class.

 

Photo taken in Bonfi by our Observer Fatoumata Diallo.

 

In the evenings, there are usually a few hundred students studying at the station. I started going there in April. During the first few days, it was very hard because there were lots of kids were preparing for their high school entrance exams. They were laughing, speaking loudly and running around. It was very hard to concentrate. Even though the youngest students are not there anymore, the conditions are still very difficult. There is a lot of noise, notably from the cars coming to the station to fill up on gas.

 

 

Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist François-Damien Bourgery.