How a commitment to reliable water turned around Mukunyuku RC Primary School

Friday, March 13th, 2020

In the past, Mukunyuku RC Primary School was an undesirable posting for teachers in Western Kenya. In 2017, Kennedy Wesonga was posted to the school as the new head teacher. He was not happy with the assignment. Mr. Wesonga wondered why his promotion from deputy head teacher to head teacher was to a school like Mukunyuku.

Students arrived at the school each morning carrying both a water container and textbooks. The water was meant to be used for cooking and cleaning. If students needed more water, they went to an unreliable hand-dug well shared by the school and surrounding households. If there was water, the students pulled it out through a hatch using a bucket and rope system.

“Our well does not give us sufficient water to drink. We use the water pupils bring,” said Mr. Wesonga when we first met him in 2018.

In the year 2018, he saw a rain tank being constructed at Namalasire Primary School. He decided to pursue the same for his school. We constructed a 50,000-liter rain tank at the school, as well as a pair of triple-door ventilation improved pit (VIP) latrines for the students.

“The construction of the rain harvesting tank has really given me mileage in the community. Every head teacher now wants the same project to be implemented in their schools!” exclaimed Mr. Wesonga after the construction was complete.

Students celebrate at the rain tank after it was completed

Mr. Wesonga promised that the school would never face a water challenge again. True to his word, the school has never lacked water in the tank since September 2018. That is due in part to his strict management of the water in the tank. Whenever the water level in the tank gets to 15,000 liters, he restricts its use for drinking only and supplements the school’s water needs with the shallow well to collect water for washing and cleaning. He would make phone calls to the watchman and make visits to the school during weekends and when the school was not in session to check on the tank. Mr. Wesonga also managed to create an understanding and enabling environment with the community so they respected him enough not to interfere with the water in the tank.

“I am very happy because before the construction of the tank, we used to go to the well or nearest river to draw water from there, but now ever since the tank was constructed we no longer go out to look for water,” shared Scaton, a student we met during a recent visit to the school.

A visit to the school saw a lot of appreciation from the teachers and the students. It is true that the project has impacted them positively as evidenced by the additional number of students that have joined the school and pupils’ good performance in last year’s primary school examinations. It is now easier to learn in this school because there is no more struggling for water since it is right inside the school’s compound, students told us.

“I am so happy that the school enrolment increased and that the performance in the 2019 examination improved very much. I attribute the change to the project. If it had not come to Mukunyuku RC Primary then we would remain the way we were,” said Mr. Wesonga.

Mr. Wesonga was posted to another school at the beginning of 2020. As a part of his transition, he made it a priority for the next head teacher to properly care for the school’s water source. Mrs. Edna Khakasa Weswa was surprised that such projects existed and she has promised to keep alive the vision for 365 days of safe and clean water for the school.

Mrs. Weswa (middle) and Mr. Wesonga (far right) with our staff.

Our hope is that she achieves it. Mrs. Weswa is already taking steps to improve the tank. She intends to fence the project so that it is not interfered with by outsiders. We worked with her to install a new manhole cover so that she can more easily manage the tank and prevent people from using it outside of school hours. She will also introduce additional leaky tins to promote handwashing and construct additional latrines since the population at the school has increased.

“It is a fact that the water tank will remain forever,” said a determined Mrs. Weswa.

The impact of the rain tank on the school is apparent to the community, too. We met a student named Auma who said that she changed schools to attend Mukunyuku RC Primary because of the fact that it has a reliable water source and it performed well in the 2019 exams. She and the other students are a part of the change happening at the school thanks to the ability to access water at any time. Parents want to send their children here and teachers like Mrs. Weswa are happy to be posted to the school.