December, 2020: Gamalenga 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 Gamalenga 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 specific 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 Gamalenga 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. Since we combined the celebration with the training and had a limited time allowed on campus as visitors to the school, students marked the event by drinking and splashing water at the rain tank.
"I am one of the victims [sic] who absent themselves from school on given occasions when I am not able to get water for use in school. With the installation of the water point, I see myself not missing school as my worry has been settled," said pupil Centrine.
"As a student of this school, I see myself excelling in my examinations due to ample time for learning and concentration."
Teachers were just as excited as the students about the new rain tank on campus.
"For a long time now, pupils have been carrying water to school from home - something that has always been faced with challenges. One could not tell exactly whether water carried to school was clean as there were times when I fell victim to drinking contaminated water. Installation of the water point in the school compound will allow me to access clean, safe water when the need arises," said Madam Joyline Yonge, a teacher and the faculty advisor to the new student health club on campus.
Madam Joyline Yonge
"Being one of the teachers in this school, I project a reduction in the cases of absenteeism by the pupils. With 100% attendance, I foresee major improvements in our academics due to a conducive learning environment. Infections related to water will now be a thing of the past as our water will be treated and, on various occasions, samples taken and tested at the laboratory."
Raise a glass to clean water
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 Victor Misemi and Samuel Simidi
to lead the training.
23 students and teachers attended training, which we held outside under the shade of trees within the school compound. We focused on COVID-19 prevention, transmission, and symptoms while also covering several other topics.
Trainer Sam shows how to make a homemade mask.
Hygiene practices related to the management of the novel coronavirus was by far the most memorable topic covered. The facilitators emphasized the importance and effectiveness of handwashing, wearing masks, and physical distancing to control the spread of the virus. During this session, pupil Edwin asked, "How will I adhere to the set guidelines in our house?"
As it turned out, Edwin comes from a family of ten living in the same tiny house. The facilitators and the participants dove deep into Edwin's case until arriving at a solution. It was agreed that Edwin should sensitize his family members always to observe the COVID-19 guidelines when away from home to avoid contracting the virus and spreading it at home. With this, Edwin became contented and promised to educate his family members on the same.
Trainer Sam leads a demonstration on the solar disinfection water treatment method
"As we all know, COVID-19 is real, and it's here with us. It is upon each person to observe the set guidelines put by the ministry of health. Today's training has helped me tighten the loose bits I had neglected on proper health standards, and I know I will not be a victim of the virus," said Madam Joyline Yonge, a teacher and the faculty advisor to the new student health club.
Madam Yonge listed several measures her school already took to help keep their students and staff safe while back at school.
"Currently, we have handwashing facilities with water and soap at designated points to allow for washing of hands. We also check members' temperatures and do records to allow for easier follow-up when needed. The school does observe social distancing, especially in our classrooms during learning sessions. We are encouraging every member in school and also those visiting the school to have their masks on."
"As a school, we had neglected sanitization of our working areas (desks, tables, chairs, etc.), but from now henceforth, sanitization begins. This will help curb the spread of the virus in case it reaches our school."
Demonstrating good toothbrushing technique in the dental hygiene session
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 healthy family guarantees a brighter future; this has been demonstrated in today's hygiene and sanitation training. As one of the training beneficiaries, I see my future brighter and promise to pass this knowledge to the community members. We thank you for having thought it wise to conduct this training in our school. Indeed, I have been deeply enriched, and I lack words but only to thank the almighty God," said student Laura.
During the governance session, the students elected their peers to lead their newly formed student health club. The facilitators ensured the participants understood that leadership comes with power and responsibilities that no one leader should misuse or abuse. We experienced a minimum of three pupils nominating themselves for at least every position during the election stage. We thought this demonstrated a strong commitment to leadership and growth within the group. At the end of the election process, we had successful winners for each of the contested positions.
Students take notes at training
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.
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.
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.
Besides, we will 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: Gamalenga Primary School Hygiene Training Postponed to 2021
Not too long ago, we reached out to share exciting news about completing the construction of the rain tank and VIP latrines at Gamalenga Primary School.
Completed 75,000-liter rain tank at Gamalenga Primary School
Kenya’s president recently announced that due to the progression of COVID-19 in Kenya, all primary and secondary schools will 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.
We are pleased to share that these new WASH facilities remain in tip-top shape and, in the case of the rain tank, actively collecting water.
The school's Deputy Head Teacher poses with the completed latrines after he helped facilitate their construction following school closures.
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.
Water flows from the rain tank's tap.
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 student-focused 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.
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,” 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.
May, 2020: Gamalenga Primary School Construction Complete
Please note, all photos in this report were taken before social distancing recommendations went into effect.
Construction of the rain tank and VIP latrines at Gamalenga Primary School is now complete!
Completed rain tank with water flowing
While Kenyan schools remain closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these new water and sanitation facilities will be ready and waiting for the students' return.
Recent rains have already started to fill the tank with water
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 that are 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.
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.
The Deputy Head Teacher poses with 1 of 2 new blocks of VIP latrines
Thankfully, many of the students will have already received training in their home communities as we continue our in-person trainings and other outreach work on COVID-19 prevention in the surrounding area. (To see more of our work on the frontlines of COVID-19 prevention in all of the communities we serve, click here).
We will be sure to reach back out to you with more news and photos from the training and handing-over ceremony of the rain tank once schools reopen!
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, who were given accommodations by the school. Local women and men helped our artisans with their manual labor, too.
Excavating the rain tank site
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.
Laying stones over the leveled ground for the foundation
Then, we cleared the site by excavating the soil to make level ground for the tank foundation. The foundation was cast by laying big stones on the level ground and reinforcing them using steel wire, concrete, and waterproof cement. Both the drawing pipe as well as the drainage pipe were affixed as the foundation was laid.
Pouring and tamping down concrete on the foundation
Next, the walls were formed using a skeleton of rebar and wire mesh with sugar sacks temporarily tied to the outside as backing. This was attached to the foundation’s edges so that the work team could start the Ferro-cementing process, in which the walls are layered with cement alternating with the inner and outer side until 6 layers of cement are in place. (The sugar sacks are removed once the interior receives its first 2 layers of cement.)
Interior cement and plastering in progress
Inside the tank, 1 central and 4 support pillars were cast to ensure the dome does not cave in once cemented. Meanwhile, the inner wall was plastered while the outer walls received their roughcasting. Outside of the tank, the access area to the tap was dug, plastered, and a short staircase installed, along with a soak pit where spilled water can drain from the access area through the ground. This helps to keep the tap area dry and tidy.
Pillar work inside the tank
Dome construction could begin after the tank walls had been given enough time to settle. Using similar techniques as used on the walls, the dome started as rebar, wire mesh, and sugar sacks and was attached to the tank walls before receiving cement and plaster. A small manhole cover was built into the dome to allow access for future cleanings and water treatments.
Cementing exterior walls
Long wooden poles (about 75 of them!) were placed inside the tank to support the dome while it cured. A lockable manhole cover was fitted over the tap area, the gutters were affixed to the roof and the tank, and an overflow pipe was set in place at the edge of the dome for when the tank reaches capacity.
Preparing the dome's wire form
Once finished, the rain tank was given 3-4 weeks to undergo complete curing. Finally, the interior support poles and dome sugar sacks were removed and the tank was cleaned.
Cementing the dome
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 the Deputy Head Teacher who continues 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!