The Taiwan Catholic Mission Foundation says it has lent its support behind a government scheme to help rural schoolchildren in four allied African countries. It says it found four local companies to donate 250 solar-powered LED lamps for underprivileged students at a school in The Gambia as part of the government’s “A Light for Africa” aid project. The lamps were handed over during President Ma Ying-jeou’s stopover in the country during his 12-day trip to three of Taiwan’s four African diplomatic allies – Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Swaziland – which concluded yesterday. This was the first batch of Taiwan-manufactured lamps given to the West African country, according to Austin Ou, chief executive officer of the foundation. Photovoltaic power generating systems are being installed in participating schools and each student is given a LED lighting kit equipped with a rechargeable battery that lasts for 4.5 hours after a 20-minute charge. The students can recharge their lamps at school and take them home for their family to use at night or use for them to study after school. “This gives villagers the incentive to let their children go to school instead of having them help in the fields,” Ou said. The lamps were presented by Ma and the First Lady Christine Chow at a state banquet held in their honor during their recent visit to Africa’s smallest country. The Gambia is one of the least developed countries in the world with an annual income per capita at US$430. Its economy is dominated by farming, fishing, and tourism. The vast majority of the 1.8 million-population are Muslims and less than 10 percent are Christians.