Project Status

Project Type:  Rainwater Catchment

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 628 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - May 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/10/2024

Project Features

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Established in 1938 by the Pentecostal Assemblies of God Church of Kenya, Gimarakwa Primary School is consistently among the top-performing schools in its geographic zone. Last year, it was ranked as the best school with the highest mean grade. Despite this, there has always been a severe water shortage here.

Every day, the 614 students who attend here must carry water from home to school before their first classes begin at 7:00 am. When they return home for lunch, they must bring back another full container before their afternoon lessons commence. Each trip carrying water is tiresome and time-consuming, and students arrive feeling drained of energy. The 14 teachers and staff wonder how their students have been able to maintain their grades despite this extra burden. They are even more curious to know how much better their pupils could be doing if they removed the daily time and energy currently wasted while fetching water.

The only other source of water for this school is a small plastic rain tank on campus, but standing at just 10,000-liter capacity, it is nowhere near enough for the size of the student population. The tank runs dry quickly and often.

"I get complaints from the parents since accessing water is also a problem at home. Making the students carry the water to school puts more strain on their parents during the day," said Head Teacher Mr. Isaac Ambuyu.

Because the school staff are not able to monitor the sources students choose at home to fetch water, some teachers do not trust the water's integrity. Even if the sources offer clean water, the containers students use to carry it are not clean. Since water is combined for use at school, even 1 dirty container or contaminated sources means everyone is at risk of contracting waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera.

"I don't drink this water since I'm not sure about the main source. I have to spend 50 shillings every day on drinking water," said Deputy Head Teacher Mr. Josphat Mahamba. But the expense of buying water is not an option for the students, so they are left with no choice but to consume the dirty water.

Water-related illnesses and their associated high rates of absenteeism are common. They also leave both parents and the school with high medical bills for the students' treatment, forcing them to redirect financial resources that would have been used for other necessities into these bills.

What We Can Do:

Rain Tank

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.

Handwashing Stations

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.

VIP Latrines

The latrines currently in use here are few in number compared to the student population. Most are without locks, and all of them give off a strong smell since students cannot properly clean them due to the severe water shortage.

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.

Project Updates

May, 2021: Gimarakwa Primary School Project Complete!

Gimarakwa Primary School in Kenya now has access to a new source of safe, clean water thanks to the completion of their rain tank, which can collect 75,000 liters of water! We installed new latrines and handwashing stations for students, and we trained the school on improved sanitation and hygiene practices, including COVID-19 prevention. These components work together to unlock the opportunity for these students to live better, healthier lives.

A student holds a glass of clean water from the new rain tank.

"From today, I will trust the water that I drink. Back then, l had been diagnosed with typhoid on two occasions, which has always led me to abscond school to allow me to seek medical attention. With this water point in school, I see myself excelling in my examinations as I will have ample time for my class studies," said student Prudence, the elected Chair of the new student health club we formed during training.

Prudence poses at the rain tank.

Teachers were just as excited as the students about the new rain tank on campus.

"I now foresee a reduction in cases of water-related infections due to the availability of clean water directly in the school compound. For a long time, students used to abscond school when they weren't able to get water to carry to school. Installation of this water point will ensure a constant water supply in school," said Head Teacher Abunyu.

"With sufficient water in school, we anticipate general improvement in our academics due to an ample environment for learning."

Head Teacher Abunyu holds a glass of water from the rain tank.

How We Go From Ground to Rain Tank

Construction for this 75,000-liter rain tank was successful!

Parents, staff, and students helped our artisans gather everything needed for construction. The school’s kitchen staff and a few parents helped provide meals for the artisans, while the school provided the artisans’ accommodations. Local women and men helped our artisans with their manual labor, too.

Students deliver water to help with construction.

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.

Students toss stones to add to the rain tank's foundation.

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.

Pouring the 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. They began layering the walls with cement, alternating with the inner and outer side until six cement layers were in place. (The sugar sacks are removed once the interior receives its first two layers of cement.)

Affixing the tap and drainage pipes to the foundation

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.

Interior cement work

We dug and plastered the access area to the tap outside the tank, installing 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.

Drawing point work

Dome construction could begin after the tank walls settled. We attached a dome skeleton of rebar, wire mesh, and sugar sacks to the tank walls before cementing and plastering it using similar techniques as the wall construction. We included a small manhole cover into the dome to allow access for future cleanings and water treatments.

Working on the pillars

We propped 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 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.

Dome work

Once finished, we gave the rain tank three to four weeks to undergo complete curing. Finally, we removed the interior support poles and dome sugar sacks and cleaned the tank.

We officially handed over the rain tank to the school directly following the training. Students and staff celebrated the presence of clean water on campus. The event was an excellent 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.

VIP Latrines

This project funded the installation of six new ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines. Based on the extra-large size of the school dug pit, we also helped mobilize extra materials to construct the seventh door of latrines, all lined up in one block. The block will be split to have four doors for the girls and three doors for the boys.

Girls pose in front of the new 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 pose around the latrines.

Handwashing Stations

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.

Using a new handwashing station

Health club members will teach other students how to wash their hands at the stations properly, make sure the stations are filled with water, and ensure that there is always a cleaning agent such as soap or ash available.

Using a new handwashing station

New Knowledge

We scheduled hygiene and sanitation training with the school’s staff, who ensured that the training date would be convenient for pupils and teachers. When the training day arrived, facilitators Olivia Bomji Chebet and Samuel Simidi deployed to the site to lead the event. 17 students and teachers attended the training. The weather being calm and hot, we utilized the school's shade to conduct training. Physical spacing was considered as this created an atmosphere that encouraged participation and learning, especially during this time of COVID-19.

Training on proper mask wearing

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. During the latter, the students elected their peers to lead their newly formed student health club.

Dental hygiene demonstration

The club will be significantly 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.

Handwashing training

The session on leadership ended up being the most memorable of the day. It was unanimously agreed that good leadership unites members, allowing them to achieve a common goal. The participants understood leadership as "kiongozi" in Swahili. Participants had the opportunity to elect leaders of their choice in an open and transparent election process.

Trainer shows how to build a simple kitchen garden using recycled materials and drip irrigation.

"Today's training has been very enriching considering this time of the second wave of the coronavirus. We have learned the bad and good hygiene and sanitation practices. As a student of this school, I promise to lead other students in championing healthy habits at the school level and home to better the lives of our community members," said pupil Prudence, the elected Chair of the new student health club.

Lesson on solar disinfection of water

We asked Prudence what it was like to be at home for most of the last year due to Kenya's national coronavirus-related school closures and what it has been like coming back to school.

"COVID-19 did drag the learning process. I did spend more of my time attending to the house chores. Thus I was not able to have ample time for my revisions. Missing my class hours was a big deal. Back at home, I was bored. Being back at school is hope to me. I see my dream of becoming a teacher coming to pass," she said.

"The set guidelines by the Ministry of Education on COVID-19 have always been the order of the day. The management of the school has indeed invested a lot to ensure that we are safe in school. The school has provided us with several handwashing stations with soap, masks and has also promoted physical distancing."

"With the set regulations by the Ministry of Health, there is no course for alarm. Daily, we are being sensitized in school and back at home, and this helps me to be careful on how I handle myself," Prudence concluded.

Students fetch water from the rain tank.

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 to assist them. Also, 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!

April, 2021: Gimarakwa Primary School Project Underway!

A severe clean water shortage at Gimarakwa Primary School drains students’ time, energy, and health. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.

Get to know this school through the introduction and pictures we’ve posted, and read about this water, sanitation, and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out with more good news!

Project Photos

Project Type

For a rainwater collection system, we build gutters around a building with good, clean roofing to channel rain where we want it. From there, the water falls through a filtered inlet pipe into a high-capacity storage tank, the size of which is based on population and average rainfall patterns. In the tank, water can be stored for months, where it is easily treated and accessed. Learn more here!

A Year Later: "Our students love their school."

July, 2022

A year ago, your generous donation helped Gimarakwa Primary School in Kenya access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for Janis. Thank you!

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Gimarakwa Primary School.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Gimarakwa Primary School maintain access to safe, reliable water. Together, they keep The Water Promise.

We’re confident you'll love joining this world-changing group committed to sustainability!

Before we installed a rain tank at Gimarakwa Primary School last year, water-fetching was a burden students had to bear every day.

"Carrying water to school every day in the morning and in the afternoon was a huge task put on us," said 12-year-old Janis M. "Very early in the morning, one was able to spot students carrying water to school. We used to be inspected at the gate to verify whether we had water in our jerrycans."

Now, students no longer need to lug full jerrycans with them along with their books every day.

"Life in school is now good," Janis continued. "Students are happy and grateful to The Water Project for having come to their rescue. Access to water is now easy and fast. One is able to get water at any time of need without wasting much time. Water being sufficient, I feel relieved of a huge burden."

The school's headteacher, Mr. Abunyu, has also had worries lifted from his mind.

"The tank has been our savior, and we thank God," he said.

"Ever since it was constructed, we have not had any challenges with water in school. We now enjoy clean, safe, reliable water whenever [the] need arises. [This] has really led to [a] reduction of water-related diseases. As the headteacher of the school, I have seen a tremendous growth in regards to academic performance from our students."

Presently, students can focus on what really matters for their growth and learning: study and play.

"My focus is now on my studies," Janis said. "[The] availability of water in school has reduced time wastage, allowing students [to] put much attention on their studies. I am able to access clean, safe water for drinking and this is healthy for me."

"Our students love their school," Mr. Abunyu concluded.

Janis and Mr. Abunyu in front of the rain tank.

Navigating through intense dry spells, performing preventative maintenance, conducting quality repairs when needed and continuing to assist community leaders to manage water points are all normal parts of keeping projects sustainable. The Water Promise community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Gimarakwa Primary School maintain access to safe, reliable water.

We’d love for you to join this world-changing group committed to sustainability.

The most impactful way to continue your support of Gimarakwa Primary School – and hundreds of other places just like this – is by joining our community of monthly givers.

Your monthly giving will help provide clean water, every month... keeping The Water Promise.


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