May, 2020: St. Michael Mukongolo Primary School Project Complete!
Please note, all photos in this report were taken before social distancing recommendations went into effect.
St. Michael Mukongolo Primary School in Kenya now has access to a new source of safe, clean water thanks to the completion of their rain tank, which has the ability to collect 75,000 liters of water! We installed new latrines and handwashing stations for students, and we trained students and staff on improved sanitation and hygiene practices. All of these components work together to unlock the opportunity for these students to live better, healthier lives.
A student smiles while getting a fresh drink from the rain tank
"Sometimes we would go looking for water during class time, which would take a lot of time because we used the same spring with community members. Now I am glad we have reliable and safe water. I will concentrate on my studies and pass my examination," said student David, who is a candidate for the national education examinations this year.
Striking a pose while fetching a drink from the rain tank
Teachers were just as excited as the students about the new rain tank on campus.
"First of all, I want to thank God for the facilities. Initially, pupils were bringing water from home, which was not safe for consumption. Now I am happy I have reliable, safe water at the school," said Head Teacher Edward Mutende.
"Now that we have reliable water, the pupils will not waste time looking for water, and they will concentrate on their studies and academics. We will achieve high grades."
Head Teacher Edward Mutende at the rain tank with pupils
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.
Construction for this 75,000-liter rain tank was successful!
Before schools closed, parents, staff, and students helped our artisans gather everything needed for construction. All the while, the school cooks and community members prepared meals for the artisans, and the school provided accommodations for the artisans during their work. Local women and men helped our artisans with their manual labor, too.
Parents of students helped deliver locally available materials for construction, including water for mixing cement.
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.
Community members volunteering as laborers helping to sift sand
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. We affixed both the drawing pipe and the drainage pipe as we laid the foundation.
Outer walls temporarily lined with sugar sacks
Next, we formed the outer walls using a skeleton of rebar and wire mesh with sugar sacks temporarily tied to the outside as backing. This skeleton 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. (We remove the sugar sacks once the interior receives its first 2 layers of cement.)
Working on interior walls and pillar cement
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, 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.
Interior plasterwork dries
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.
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.
Pupils helped carry the long wooden poles inserted to support the tank's dome while drying
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, the tank was cleaned, and we waited as rain filled the tank with fresh water. When there was a sufficient volume in the tank, we treated the water and we officially handed it over to St. Michael Mukongolo Primary School.
Tying sugar sacks to wire for dome skeleton while pupils play during a break from classes
As soon as it was ready, students and staff celebrated the presence of clean water on campus. The event was a great chance for us to acknowledge the school administration and students as the primary parties entrusted with the tools we have given, as well as remind them of our continued support as they develop. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day flowing in all directions.
Pupils celebrate the new rain tank
This project funded the installation of 6 new ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines, half for girls and half for boys.
Girls stand with their new latrines
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.
Boys pose with big smiles in front of their new latrines
The 2 handwashing stations were set up during training and handed over to the student health club. These were placed outside of the girls’ and boys’ latrines to encourage handwashing after latrine use.
Girls with Head Teacher Mutende and a handwashing station
Health club members will teach other students how to properly wash their hands at the stations, make sure the stations are filled with water, and work to ensure that there is always a cleaning agent such as soap or ash available.
A boy uses a handwashing station
Hygiene and sanitation training was scheduled with the help of the school Head Teacher Edward Mutende, who ensured that the training date would be convenient for students, staff, and parent representatives. Individual teachers helped by selecting students from each class to represent the others. When the training day arrived, lead facilitator Mary Afandi deployed to the site with a team of trainers.
Trainer Mary walks students through the project's water access, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) objectives at training
20 students attended training, which was held outside under the shade thanks to the trees on the school's compound. The pupils had high expectations and an eagerness to learn, contributing to the strong turnout and level of participation throughout the training.
A facilitator gives a talk on life skills at training
We covered a number of topics including personal hygiene such as bathing, oral hygiene, and the 10 steps of handwashing; environmental hygiene; child rights; operation and maintenance of the rain tank, latrines, and handwashing stations; and leadership and governance. During the latter, the students elected their peers to lead their newly formed student health club.
Students show off their short nails as they hold out their hands to mimic the 10 steps of handwashing
Because we held this training when the spread of COVID-19 was still in its early stages and was not yet worldwide, this was not a topic we covered. Since then, however, we have developed trainings exclusively on COVID-19 prevention and awareness - see for yourself what we've been up to more recently as we continue to fight COVID-19 on the frontlines in all of the communities we serve.
Trainer Carolyne walks students through the 10 handwashing steps
The student health club will be greatly involved in the water, sanitation, and hygiene project management at school and will be responsible for encouraging good health and hygiene practices amongst their peers, teachers, and the larger community. We involved stretches, dances, and physical activities in 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.
Students take turns practicing and teaching the handwashing steps with a new handwashing station
Covering all of the water access, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) Objectives at the beginning of the training was particularly memorable to the trainers as the pupils were shocked to learn that our team routinely builds such big rain tanks and latrines at schools all over Kenya. The topics on the maintenance of the new water and sanitation facilities was also special because the pupils said they had learned a lot of things which they would use at their homes.
Girls pose in front of their new latrines
"The training was valuable to me. The knowledge I have gained I will use it also at home and any place I will be," said student Rose.
Boys smile in front of their new latrines
When an issue arises concerning the water project, the students and teachers are equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure the water point works appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact our team of field officers to assist them. In addition, we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our ongoing monitoring and maintenance program.
Thank you for making all of this possible!