Goodbye Closure Notice, Hello Education: How Water and Latrines Keep Schools Open

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

In Kenya, many schools are constantly on the lookout for the dreaded closure notice from the Ministry of Public Health due to the schools’ challenges with water, sanitation, or hygiene – and sometimes all three. Kipchorwa Primary School in Western Kenya was no exception. Its 400+ students were relying on dirty stream water for drinking, they had no way to wash their hands, and their latrines were grossly overcrowded and overused. Every day, the teachers worried if this term would be their last.

Students fetch dirty stream water for drinking before project implementation

This fear became a reality at Kipchorwa Primary School when they finally received a closure notice from the Public Health Officer last term. They then received a second notice and warning that if the requirements were not met, Kipchorwa Primary School would not be allowed to open for a new term.

Luckily, Kipchorwa Head Teacher Mr. Haroun Chebour was linked to our team by his brother, who happens to be the principal at Banja Secondary School. Mr. Chebour heard about the rain tank, latrines, and handwashing stations we installed at Banja, thus setting the Kipchorwa Primary project in motion.

On the day the Public Health Officer, Mr. Kipruto, returned to the school compound with all of the confidence and sadness that he was going to close it up, we were there, too. Little did he know that a surprise awaited him! He was met by a large rain tank and VIP latrines under construction. He was impressed with the efforts of the school and our team.

As we shook hands with him, he said, “I was so sure that I was going to close up this school today, but I am happy with the kind of work that you have done in this school. You have really saved the young ones a lot; now they don’t have to miss school due to closure, nor waste time going to fetch water. May you extend your support to many other schools.”

Girls celebrate their new VIP latrines

Once the rain tank and latrines reached completion, the school community was so excited to no longer worry about the closure notice. 

Grace Musimbi, a teacher at Kipchorwa, reflected on what this project will mean for their school’s future. “In the past, we taught the pupils how to wash their hands but it was not possible without the handwashing facilities and water in the school. I am so happy that now we have handwashing stations and knowledge on how to do it. We also have water in the compound for handwashing. Surely this is the best thing that has happened to this school.”

Pupil using a handwashing station

Head Teacher Mr. Haroun Chebour was thrilled with the project’s completion as well. “This looks like a dream come true to me. I’ve spent many sleepless nights thinking about the closure notice received from the Public Health Officer and the implications of closing the school to the candidates who are to sit for their final examinations in the next 2 months. I really thank your team for your prompt action; now I can no longer hide in my office whenever the Public Health Officer comes around because now he can no longer close my school!”

Students standing on the rain tank’s manhole cover protecting the tap

To learn more about Kipchorwa Primary School and their WaSH project, click here

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