December, 2020: Kapkoi Primary School Project Complete!
We have exciting news!
When Kenya closed schools nationwide in March 2020 to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, we worked carefully to ensure Kapkoi Primary School's rain tank and latrines reached completion despite the closure. To achieve this, we relied on a combination of mutual trust and communication with the school and students' families to finish construction while keeping our team and the community safe.
Kenyan schools were initially scheduled to reopen in January 2021, when we planned to train students and teachers on COVID-19 prevention, handwashing, and how to take care of their new rain tanks and latrines.
However, recently, the Kenyan government allowed certain grades of students to resume their classes for the remainder of 2020. Upon hearing this news, we treated the water in every school rain tank to ensure a fresh supply of drinking water for the returning pupils.
Once students returned to school, we acted quickly to offer our health, hygiene, and COVID-19 training to schools to use clean water from their rain tanks to keep students and teachers safe and healthy. Our good relationship and open communication with Kapkoi Primary School led our principal to invite our team to conduct the training immediately.
While there, we also officially handed over the rain tank and latrines to the school. Though limited in scope, this was a particularly joyous celebration as we had not expected this would be possible until some time next year. The smiles and happiness in the pupils' and teachers' faces (even behind their masks!) was all that was needed to know how important this project was to them.
"The availability of safe and clean water in our school has made life easy both here in school and back home. I can now direct all my energy to my classwork," said student Ashley.
"I can now sit down in class with my mindset on classwork alone and not fetching water from the spring. I am sure my performance in class will improve because now I am settled in class fully."
Girls celebrate clean water from the tank.
Teachers were just as excited as the students about the new rain tank on campus.
"Access to clean water in our school will give the pupils a chance to attend classes without any disturbances and be able to build a better future. This will make me as their teacher happy because the pupils will be progressing well with their studies. Since we have water right here in our school compound, sanitation and good hygiene will be of a good standard," said Madam Idah Sherah, the school's Headteacher.
Celebrating the rain tank
The school and our team agreed that adherence to physical distancing and mask-wearing whenever possible would be necessary to train the students safely. With a strict timetable to minimize exposure and an eager student body ready to learn, we sent facilitators Olivia Bomji and Jonathan Mutai to lead the training.
18 people attended training, including students, a few teachers, staff, and representatives from the school board of management. We held the training under a tree outside the classrooms. This space enabled us to follow the COVID-19 regulations of maintaining physical distancing throughout the event.
Trainer Olivia asks participants to spread out to ensure a safe distance at training.
We focused on COVID-19 prevention, transmission, and symptoms while also covering several other topics.
"I have learned how to protect myself and others during this COVID-19 period. I will ensure I wash hands, wear a mask, and keep a one-meter social distance when visiting places. The school and the community will benefit because we as pupils were encouraged to do what they were taught during the training once at home," said student Ashley.
Handwashing training session
Ashley said that her classmates have been trying hard to stay safe while in this new and unique school term.
"We have been using the handwashing stations that your team gave us. It has helped a lot because since we reported back to school, we have been using them to wash our hands. We have been wearing the masks that our parents gave us, and we have been wearing them.
"We will ensure that every household has a handwashing station. This will help our family members and any visitors to wash their hands. We learned that wearing a mask can help prevent COVID-19, and we will ensure that our parents wear a mask while going out," Ashley added.
Trainer Olivia demonstrates the ten steps of handwashing.
Other topics the facilitators covered included personal hygiene such as bathing, oral hygiene, the ten steps of handwashing; environmental hygiene; child rights; operation and maintenance of the rain tank, latrines, and handwashing stations; and leadership and governance.
A pupil volunteers to demonstrate proper toothbrushing technique.
The new WASH facilities' maintenance and operation was the most memorable topic because both the teachers and students promised to ensure that the tank and latrines would be well maintained. The group attested that without the new rain tank, latrines, and handwashing facilities in the school, it would have been difficult for pupils to stay in school under normal circumstances, let alone coming back during the pandemic.
Handwashing was another special topic. We asked everyone to demonstrate the ten steps of handwashing to ensure their hands would be clean. The students particularly enjoyed this session, as they chose to sing the happy birthday song since it takes exactly 20 seconds to sing as they washed their hands. The pupils said it was fun doing handwashing, and they promised to teach the whole school once schools reopen.
Girls pose next to their new latrines.
During the governance session, the students elected their peers to lead their newly formed student health club. The club will be greatly involved in the water, sanitation, and hygiene project management at their school. They will also be responsible for encouraging good health and hygiene practices amongst their peers, teachers, and the larger community.
Students celebrate their new knowledge by posing with their training workbooks.
"My way of thinking and how I have been doing things have changed after learning more about hygiene and sanitation. Water means life, and life means keeping ourselves and our surroundings clean all the time," said student Waden, whose peers elected as treasurer of their new student health club.
When more students return to school next year, the students we trained will be instrumental in sharing what they learned with the rest of the student body to help keep everyone safe and healthy.
We involved stretches, dances, and physical activities between each topic to keep the pupils’ energy up and their minds active. By the end of the training, each pupil understood their role in sustaining clean water and good health within their school community.
Boys pose next to their new latrines.
When an issue arises concerning the water project, the students and teachers are equipped with the necessary skills to rectify most problems and ensure the water point works appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact our field officers' team to assist them.
Celebrating the new rain tank
We will also continue to offer the school unmatchable support as a part of our ongoing monitoring and maintenance program. When schools fully reopen, we will continue to engage them in coronavirus prevention training and reminders.
Thank you for making all of this possible!
August, 2020: Kapkoi Primary School Construction Complete; Hygiene Training Postponed to 2021
Construction of the rain tank and VIP latrines at Kapkoi Primary School is now complete!
A school staff member holds a glass of clean water from the completed rain tank.
Kenya’s president recently announced that due to the progression of COVID-19 in Kenya, all primary and secondary schools would remain closed until at least January 2021.
What does this mean for the project?
It’s simple: we will continue to maintain our water promise, monitoring the project’s integrity, and working with school officials to determine the best practices for the safety and maintenance of the rain tank and latrines. This will ensure that these new water and sanitation facilities stay in tip-top shape while awaiting the students' return.
We will not be able to formally hand over the rain tank and VIP latrines to the school or conduct health and hygiene training until students return. Because of that, we consider this project “incomplete.” That is why we extended the expected completion date to 2021 - after we expect schools to reopen.
Once schools reopen, we will schedule a training session with students, teachers, and parents. This 1-day intensive will cover a wide range of topics, including 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.
We are counting down the months and days until we can greet these students back at school with their new rain tank and latrines! Once we complete the health and hygiene training and we can safely celebrate the students' first use of the new project, we will be sure to send you an update.
Watr flows from the rain tank's tap.
Luckily, most students in this school live in communities where we have completed several rounds of COVID-19 sensitization training. We are continuing to work with all of the communities we serve throughout the pandemic to keep their water running and help them stay informed of the latest COVID-19 guidance.
Curious about what life is like dealing with COVID-19 in a different country?
Check out our new series, “Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles,” and other updates on our blog. Every week we invite a new person from a community we serve to share their perspective and experience since the pandemic came to their doorstep.
A New Page for Water & Sanitation at Kapkoi Primary School
The rain tank has the ability to collect 75,000 liters of water, providing a new source of safe, clean water on campus. Combined with the 6 new VIP latrines we built and the future installation of 2 new handwashing facilities once classes resume, we look forward to seeing all of these components work together to unlock the opportunity for these students to live better, healthier lives.
The latrines will be divided evenly among the students by gender, 3 for girls and 3 for boys. All of these new latrines have cement floors designed to be easy to use and clean, locking doors for safety and privacy, and vents designed to keep air flowing up and out through the roof. With a rain tank right on school property, there should be enough water to keep them clean.
How We Go From Ground to Rain Tank
Before schools closed, parents, staff, and students helped our artisans gather everything needed for construction. Even after the children went home, the school team of kitchen staff and a few parents helped provide meals for the artisans while the school provided accommodations. Local women and men helped our artisans with their manual labor, too.
Women deliver rocks to the rain tank construction site at school (before schools closed).
The process officially began with our staff and school administration looking around the school compound to try and determine the best location for a new rain tank. This needed to be the best site with enough land and a nearby building with good, clean roofing to catch the rainwater.
Rain tank site excavation.
Then, we cleared the site by excavating the soil to make level ground for the tank foundation. We cast the foundation by laying big stones on the level ground and reinforcing them using steel wire, concrete, and waterproof cement. We affixed both the drawing pipe and the drainage pipe as we laid the foundation.
Laying the stone foundation.
Next, we formed the walls using a skeleton of rebar and wire mesh with sugar sacks temporarily tied to the outside as backing. We attached this to the foundation’s edges so that the work team could start the Ferro-cementing process.
Cutting and knitting sugar sacks to the wire reinforcement.
They began layering the walls with cement, alternating with the inner and outer side, until 6 layers of cement were in place. (The sugar sacks are removed once the interior receives its first 2 layers of cement.)
Interior cement work
Inside the tank, we cast 1 central and 4 support pillars to ensure the dome does not cave in once cemented. Meanwhile, we plastered the inner wall while roughcasting the outer walls. Outside of the tank, we dug and plastered the access area to the tap, where we also installed a short staircase. In front of the access area, we constructed a soak pit where spilled water can drain from the access area through the ground. The pit helps to keep the tap area dry and tidy.
Dome construction could begin after the tank walls settled. Using similar techniques as the wall construction, we attached a dome skeleton of rebar, wire mesh, and sugar sacks to the tank walls before cementing and plastering it. We included a small manhole cover into the dome to allow access for future cleanings and water treatments.
We propper long wooden poles (about 75 of them!) inside the tank to support the dome while it cured. Then it was down to the finishing touches: fitting a lockable manhole cover over the tap area, affixing the gutters to the roof and tank, and setting an overflow pipe in place at the edge of the dome for when the tank reaches capacity.
Knitting sacks to dome wire.
Once finished, we gave the rain tank 3-4 weeks to undergo complete curing. Finally, we removed the interior support poles and dome sugar sacks and cleaned the tank.
Dome cement work.
Since completion, there have been very heavy and frequent rains in this region of Western Kenya. We are monitoring the water levels in the tank thanks to the help of school staff, who continue to monitor campus during the break. When schools are ready to reopen, we will treat the tank full of fresh water just before students arrive to be sure it is ready for their use.
Thank you for helping to make this work possible!