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World Bank Team Visits Minsk’s Gymnasium #8 to see Progress

World Bank Team Visits Minsk’s Gymnasium #8 to see Progress
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School dance ensemble “Belorusochka”
To kick off the 2007-08 school year, Gymnasium #8 of the City of Minsk hosted a World Bank team headed by Country Director for Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova Paul Bermingham.  The team came to visit the school to meet students and administrators and to view major renovations, aimed at improving energy-efficiency, that were carried out under the Social Infrastructure Retrofitting Project for Belarus. 

Belarus' economy is 85 percent dependent on energy imports; therefore, their rational use is critical for the country. When gas prices rise, schools and hospitals are the first to have to cut their usage. Many social facilities were built in Soviet times, and are equipped with outdated and inefficient heating and lighting systems that consume too much energy and affect the health of people who spend time there.

Built in 1952, Gymnasium #8 has 830 pupils who study advanced courses in English and French, along with choreography, music, and art.   The increased study load, as compared to regular schools, inevitably requires more work for the students, and maintaining students’ health and well-being is crucial. 

Good lighting, for example, plays a significant role in preserving eyesight.  In January 2005, the Gymnasium replaced old lighting fixtures.  “Indoor illumination has increased and now meets standards for lighting in schools.  Prior to the retrofitting, the illumination was 300 - 350 lux, but since then it has increased to 500 lux. At the same time our savings during one year will amount to 17.8 thousand kWh, or 45.49 percent of  consumed power”, said Natalia Aladyina, Principal of the Gymnasium.  “These aren’t just energy saving technologies—they’re health saving technologies as well.

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P. Bermingham meets the school administration and visits renovated classes
Beyond lighting system replacement, the school also retrofitted its heating unit last November, by means of heat exchanger replacement.  Before that, the indoor temperature in the Gymnasia varied between 14 - 24° C - either too cold or too hot.  The new equipment, with reliable automatic controls, allows for a steady temperature of between 18-20°С. The heating unit costs –US$4000– will pay off within 1 – 2 seasons.

However, a heating system cannot be energy-efficient if the heat is irretrievably lost by evaporation through old windows.  Therefore, instead of the old window frames, new multiple glass panes were installed.  As a result, access to natural light has also been improved in classrooms.

Meeting the school administration staff and pupils, Paul Bermingham noted that the World Bank welcomes the fact that schools are leading the way towards energy efficiency in the project. “The project activities do not simply foster energy efficiency.  You instill an awareness of the importance of energy saving in the pupils from a very early age,” he told teachers and administrative staff.  “My colleagues in the World Bank and I are very glad that we have made our modest contribution.  Now we are discussing with the Belarusian Government what can be done in the future,” he said.

World Bank support is retrofitting 600 social sector infrastructure facilities– schools, kindergartens, community homes for the elderly, hospitals, and outpatient clinics –in Minsk and other regions of Belarus. The outdated equipment has been replaced with modern heating and lighting systems. Eight facilities have been fully renovated– from the overhaul of heating supply systems to the replacement of windows.

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P. Bermingham meets the school administration and visits renovated classes
Now the project is approaching the completion stage, with both the Belarusian and World Bank side expressing satisfaction with its outcomes. Overall project-based savings are estimated by experts at up to $US 4.12 million a year. “Back-of-the envelope” calculations show that the World Bank loan will pay for itself within 8 years.

In addition to obvious financial benefits, the project has made a significant social impact — a comfortable functional and health environment has been created in schools and hospitals. There is no longer any need to worry that children’s eyes will suffer at school lessons or that they may catch a cold because of frigid temperatures at an outpatient clinic.

The World Bank stands ready to provide further financing for retrofitting social infrastructure under the loan, which was extended in 2006 to implement the Post- Chernobyl Recovery Project (the loan is $US 50 million). New equipment will be installed in schools, hospitals, and orphanages in the Gomel, Brest, and Moguilev regions; insulation will be improved, and boiler and heat supply systems will be replaced. This means that children in remote communities will have the same comfortable schooling conditions as many of their fellow pupils in the capital city. Heating in hospitals and outpatient clinics will be improved, helping patients recover more quickly. Nearly three thousand individual houses in the Chernobyl-affected areas will be connected to reliable gas heating.