Facing the future without fear

Friday, July 16th, 2021

The students at Sawawa Secondary school did not have a safe water source.

Students lowered a bucket on a rope down into the well to fetch water, submerge it, then pull it back up and pour the water into their personal containers.

During the dry season, the water dried up, and students are forced to look for water elsewhere in the community – leaving school grounds and wasting precious school time in their search.

“Due to the seasonality of the partially protected well, I am forced to skip some lessons in search of water. The water is also not conducive for consumption as it is not clean,” said student Simon.

Teachers reported that most students have complained of ailments brought about by drinking dirty well water. Typhoid, diarrhea, and stomachaches were the key water-related diseases in the school. These caused students to miss class, and it cost the school and their families greatly to pay for medication and doctor visits.

“As the head of the school, since the well water is not safe for consumption, I am forced to always buy drinking water for myself. Sometimes I am forced to drink the water just like my students, and this always ends with stomachache and diarrhea,” said Head Teacher Mr. Clarance Elijah.

But that changed a year ago when we installed a 75,000-liter rainwater harvesting tank.

We worked with the school and parents to construct a tank that could hold plenty of water for the students to access. More importantly, the tank provides safe water that prevents the students from contracting waterborne illnesses and missing class.

We recently visited the school and spoke with some of the students to hear the impact of the tank on their lives.

Latifa M

“As a student of this school, I had faced challenges concerning access to clean and safe water. This resulted in me coming late to school due to the burden of carrying water. The water we collected was not enough for the entire school; hence we could not achieve our standards of hygiene,” said Latifa, an 18-year-old student.

“Access to clean water has enhanced my academic time with no missed lessons or absences. Academically I will achieve and face my future without fear.”

Latifa and Hudson at the tank.

We also spoke with Hudson C, a member of the child-to-child health club set up to promote improved hygiene throughout the school.

“Accessing water has been so easy, no more time-wasting. This has enhanced the maximum concentration of students in classes without straggling to look for water. Academically the school performance has improved compared to the past, and more projects will be progressively achieved,” he said.

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Tom Murphy

Tom is a Program Officer with The Water Project after working as a humanitarian journalist for 8 years. His work appeared in publications ranging from the Guardian to Foreign Policy to NPR, covering topics including water in India, agriculture in Kenya, public health in Haiti, and electricity access in Ghana.