December, 2020: Kinu Friends Secondary School Project Complete!
When Kenya closed schools nationwide in March 2020 to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, we worked carefully to ensure Kinu Friends Secondary 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 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 Kinu Friends Secondary School led our principal to invite our team to conduct the training immediately.
Students and Principal Okoth celebrate the completed rain tank
Kinu Friends Secondary 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. These components work together to unlock the opportunity for these students to live better, healthier lives.
A student takes a drink from the rain tank
"This tank will bring a total change in this institution. For a long time now, we've been having a challenge as an institution...As a student of this school, I will be able to drink clean, safe water. With water in the school's compound, I will indeed feel secure...I see myself excelling in my examinations as much time will be created for my class studies. Cases of absenteeism will now be a thing of the past," said pupil Derick.
A student enjoys a drink of water from the rain tank
Teachers were just as excited as the students about the new rain tank on campus.
"This is the first water point to be installed in this institution. For a long time, students have been fetching water outside the school's compound in a community spring, and this has been faced with challenges. Today marks a milestone towards improving good hygiene standards in this institution," said school Principal Mr. Vincent Okoth.
"Cases of water-related infections will now be history in this school. Study hours have always been interrupted as students are normally required to fetch water for use when the need arises. This will now be a thing of the past. We anticipate high enrollment this coming year. We are also looking forward to registering good results [in the national examinations] in years to come."
Mr. Okoth at the rain tank
Construction for this 75,000-liter rain tank was successful!
Even after schools closed in March, parents, staff, and students helped our artisans gather everything needed for construction. 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.
The process officially began with our staff and school administration looking around the school compound to 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.
The lead artisan levels the stones laid for the rain tank's foundation
Next, we formed the outer walls using a skeleton of rebar and wire mesh with sugar sacks temporarily tied to the outside as backing. We attached this skeleton to the foundation’s edges so that the work team could start the Ferro-cementing process. They layer the walls with cement, alternating with the inner and outer side until six cement layers are in place. (We remove the sugar sacks once the interior receives its first two layers of cement.)
Tying sugar sacks to the tank's wire wall skeleton
Inside the tank, we cast one central and four 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 tap's access area 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.
Cement and plasterwork inside the rain tank
Dome construction could begin after the tank walls had been given enough time to settle. Using similar techniques 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.
Affixing the gutter system to the rain tank and roof
Long wooden poles (about seventy-five 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 were set in place at the edge of the dome for when the tank reaches capacity.
Once finished, the rain tank was given three to four 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 freshwater. When there was a sufficient volume in the tank, we treated the water, and we officially handed it over to Kinu Friends Secondary School.
Student Edith holds up a glass of clean water from the tank
As soon as it was ready, students and staff celebrated the presence of clean water on campus. We officially handed over the project to the school directly following training. 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 and remind them of our continued support as they develop. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day, flowing in all directions.
This project funded the installation of six new ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines, three for the girls and three for the boys.
The two blocks of VIP latrines
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.
Boys handwashing in front of their latrines
The two 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. 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 ensure that there is always a cleaning agent such as soap or ash available.
Girls handwashing in front of their latrines
Hygiene and sanitation training was scheduled with the help of the school principal, who ensured that the training date would be convenient for students given their recent return to school. When the training day arrived, facilitators Samuel Simidi and Victor Misemi deployed to the site.
11 people attended the training, including students, the school principal, and a parent representative. We held training outside next to the rain tank. The setting was helpful for practical demonstrations that required water, and it easily allowed for distancing throughout each session.
Trainer Victor leads the handwashing session at training
We focused on COVID-19 prevention, transmission, and symptoms while also covering several other topics. These 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, handwashing stations; and leadership and governance.
The latter session was the most memorable as it was also when the students elected their peers to lead their newly formed student health club. The facilitators emphasized that leadership comes with power and responsibilities, and no one leader should misuse or abuse. At the election stage, at least every participant vied for a position on the club. We thought this was an excellent sign of their commitment to maintaining their new WASH facilities. After an intense and vigorous process, the group elected their leaders for each position.
Trainer explains how to clean and maintain the rain tank's gutters
"This village of ours suffers a challenge when it comes to good hygiene and sanitation standards. Take a walk in every household, and you will witness what I am talking about," said student Edith, whose peers elected to be secretary of their new club.
"Today's training has been helpful to me as I have been enriched with the knowledge on the ways of improving and maintaining my health standards. I promise to disseminate whatever I have learned here today in my village so that they can also get to improve and maintain good hygiene and sanitation standards."
Edith added that her school and community had heard about the importance of frequent and proper handwashing and mask-wearing to keep the virus at bay. After the training, she would try to encourage greater precautions among her peers.
"As one of the beneficiaries of the training, I am going to encourage our members always to observe social distancing; washing hands taking into consideration the ten steps of handwashing; wearing clean face masks; and avoiding touching one's face."
The student health club will be greatly involved in the water, sanitation, and hygiene project management at school. It will encourage good health and hygiene practices amongst their peers, teachers, and the larger community. 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.
A parent enjoys water from the tank
"I am glad to be one of the participants of the hygiene and sanitation training. Indeed, the training has been timely to me. I have realized the mistakes I have been making on hygiene and sanitation standards, and I have made up my mind to change and always do the right thing," said Principal Vincent Okoth.
"As a beneficiary of the training, I promise to pass this information to other members so that they can also cross-check their way of living and always try to improve."
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 field officers' team to assist them. We will also continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our ongoing monitoring and maintenance program.
Thank you for making all of this possible!