Empowering a safe and healthy return to school in Kenya

Friday, January 29th, 2021

Since last March, students across Kenya have been home from school when the Kenyan government enacted nation-wide school closures to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Although the government allowed a partial school reopening in November and December so that the final-year grades of each school level could take their exams, most students remained at home and without a lesson plan.

Then, in January, everything changed.

A secondary school student masked up at our training. Her mask reads, “There is hope.”

After more than nine months of children missing out on class since most schools and communities across rural Kenya cannot access online learning, the government fully reopened all schools this month. But the opening came with a caveat, like so many other countries that are reopening schools for in-person learning: health, safety, and COVID-19 prevention must be at the top of every school’s syllabus.

Our teams have been partnering with the Kenyan Ministry of Health since the pandemic began to help bring vital information about the virus and its prevention to all of the communities we serve. Now, our teams’ expertise fits a new yet equally pressing and wide-scale need: ensuring that students and staff have the most up-to-date and reliable information to fight the virus at school.

“When in doubt, throw your arms out!” is an easy physical distancing check wherever students find themselves near others.

The Water Project supports more than 500 schools in Kenya with water, sanitation, and hygiene projects and training. Our teams wasted no time reaching out to every school to offer COVID-19 training to refresh students and staff on prevention best practices aligned with national and international standards.

Since the first week of the new year, we’ve been training schools, and we’re glad the schools are welcoming us. We are still hearing the most prevalent COVID-19-related myths and rumors circulating among the children. Many students and teachers alike say they appreciate the refresher on proper handwashing and mask-wearing.

The new face of learning across Kenya: masked students reading COVID-19 prevention pamphlets.

Micah is a teenaged student at Eshimuli Primary School, where our team recently completed the installation of a 75,000-liter rain rank, six ventilated improved pit latrines, and two new handwashing stations. Micah attended our team’s hygiene and sanitation training that emphasized COVID-19 prevention.

“The new knowledge that I have received today will help me live healthily and happily. I have been living with worry about COVID-19 and not taking the right measures, such as washing hands with soap, but now I’ll be keen to do what is right and stop worrying.”

“I’ve always been worried about the virus, imagining how one day it will get my family and me. But after the training today, I don’t fear it anymore. Instead, I am making up my mind to do what is required of me and live protected,” Micah said.

“Being a student, I was so much affected by the closure of schools because I would have moved to the next class, but now I am forced to repeat the same class. I missed learning most, and my teachers.”


“I feel good [about being back at school], especially about the water tank and the pit latrines. They have really changed the face of our school, and it will also help us in improving the hygiene and sanitation matters in our school.”

“The school had put in place handwashing stations, though they are not enough [for the number of students], and our teachers emphasize wearing a face mask. After the training, I intend to add leaky tins, which will boost the number of handwashing stations to help ensure that all the pupils wash their hands regularly. I have also learned to make a face mask, and so with this knowledge, I can teach others and make more face masks for myself.”

A student practices handwashing at training using soap, water from his school’s rain tank, and a leaky tin handwashing station.

Our teams continue to reach more schools like Micah’s with COVID-19 prevention training. We look forward to sharing the simple tools and knowledge the students and staff are asking for to continue with their studies in the safest and healthiest academic environment possible. We look forward to sharing more stories and images from those excited to be back at their desks after a tumultuous year unlike any other.

A Trainer shows a student how to make and use a leaky tin handwashing station.

Home More Like This