Please note, original photos were taken before the pandemic.
In 1981, the Isango community established their first primary school under their own name. It began as a community school with just a few classrooms, but after the school registered with the government, the school was able to build more classes. The Anglican Church sponsors Isango Primary providing spiritual support for the school.
Today, the school has 9 classrooms and the county government has donated 1 classroom dedicated to early childhood development education. Their own block is currently under construction. The Isango Primary School compound has good scenery with mango trees near the classrooms and rocks that give the compound a beautiful view.
For the 647 students and staff on campus, their only source of water is a small plastic rain tank - just 5,000-liters capacity - that quickly and regularly goes dry. The dry tank forces the pupils to go fetch water from a spring about 500 meters away in the village.
To get to the spring, pupils must cross a busy road followed by a narrow footpath between people's sugar cane plantations. This route is dangerous for the students, especially when they have to go fetch water early in the morning. As a result, pupils need their teachers to accompany them to the spring, wasting a lot of both groups' productive time that would otherwise be invested in syllabus coverage.
"The pupils are always insecure, especially when they are going to fetch water very early in the morning. With the place where the spring is located, I personally do fear for their safety," said Headteacher Mr. Chrisantus Makana.
"We are just forced to allow them to get water for the school program to continue running."
Once at the spring, the safety of the water comes into question, too. There are farming activities around the spring, with chemical fertilizers and pesticides used in the immediate area. These could be seeping into the groundwater. But even if the spring water were safe, the pupils' unwashed containers and hands contaminate the water they collect, leading to water-related illnesses back at school.
The amount of learning time the students miss is high due to the combination of trips to the spring and absenteeism driven by waterborne illnesses. If the water from the morning trip runs out, pupils are sent back to the spring with a teacher mid-day to fetch more water.
"Sometimes we go to fetch water during class time, and this affects the syllabus coverage. We delay finishing our syllabus which affects the school performance negatively," said teenage student Kelvin.
Pupils report frequent cases of typhoid and amoeba. Some students come to school tired and are unable to concentrate in class from their early morning trek for water. Many have headaches from carrying heavy jerrycans to and from the spring. Others feel fatigued while in class due to a lack of drinking water because the water they fetch has to be highly rationed and prioritized for cooking school meals.
Because of the lack of water in school, pupils will some days avoid school altogether for fear of being told to go fetch water from the spring. Some even go home when they are told to go fetch water, skipping their afternoon lessons. There are also frequent conflicts with farmers in the area, because sometimes the pupils interfere with the sugarcane on the path to the spring.
What We Can Do:
A 75,000-liter rainwater catchment tank will help alleviate the water crisis at this school. The school will help collect the needed construction materials such as sand, bricks, rocks, and water for mixing cement. We will complement their materials by providing an expert team of artisans, tools, hardware, and the guttering system. Once finished, this tank will begin catching rainfall that will be used by the school’s students and staff for drinking, handwashing, cooking, cleaning, and much more.
We and the school strongly believe that all of these components will work together to improve standards at this school, which will help lead to better student academic performance and will help to unlock the potential for these students to live better, healthier lives.
There is currently nowhere for students to wash their hands after using the latrines or before eating lunch, let alone the water to do so.
The student health club will oversee the 2 new handwashing stations we will provide, and make sure they are kept clean and in working condition. The club leaders will fill the handwashing stations with water daily and make sure they are always supplied with a cleaning agent such as soap or ash.
There are far too few latrines for the number of students at this school.
2 triple-door latrine blocks will be constructed with local materials that the school will help gather. 3 doors will serve the girls while the other 3 will serve the boys. All of these new latrines will have cement floors that are designed to be easy to use and to clean. And with a rain tank right on school property, there should be enough water to keep them clean.
Training on Health, Hygiene, COVID-19, and More
All primary and secondary schools are currently closed in Kenya due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are scheduled to reopen in January 2021. Once classes resume, we will schedule a training session with students, teachers, and parents. This intensive training will cover a wide range of topics including COVID-19 symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention; personal and environmental hygiene; and the operation and maintenance of the rain tank, latrines, and handwashing stations. There will be a special emphasis on handwashing.
Our team of facilitators will use a variety of methods to train, including participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation, and asset-based community development. We will initiate a student health club, which will prepare students to lead other pupils into healthy habits at school and at home. We will also lead lectures, group discussions, and provide illustrative handouts to teach health topics and ways to promote good hygiene practices within the school including handwashing and water treatment. We will then conduct a series of follow-up trainings before transitioning to our regularly scheduled support visits throughout the year.