"Most of the time I am forced to go thirsty as I am scared of drinking the dirty water from the well. Sometimes pupils drop in dirty tins making it even scarier. On the other hand, when my pupils get affected due to this I am also equally affected."
This is the water crisis at St. Martin's Primary School in the words of teacher Mr. Eliud Wanjala. With 510 students and 14 teachers and staff on campus every day, the school is caught between a rock and a hard place with an unlined well on campus that only gives dirty water. Without another water source available to the school, they are left to consume contaminated water that causes high rates of waterborne illnesses among students and teachers alike.
"Personally I have had stomachaches and I have been forced to be absent once I've consumed the well water," said student Noel.
Pupils frequently report severe cases of typhoid and diarrhea after consuming the well water, which keeps them out of school while they recover. The expense of seeing doctors and obtaining medicine is eating into the pockets of parents and the school budget. All of this missed class time amounts to lower grades for students who cannot catch up after their extended absences, to the chagrin of both pupils and teachers.
To fetch water from the well, students lower a container on a rope into the water, submerge the container, then pull it back up. With each haul of water, the rope passes through students' unwashed hands and the bucket and rope bring dirt back down with them. But with no other choice for water, the school relies on this water for all of its drinking, cooking, and cleaning needs.
Cleaning is, however, lacking as the school prioritizes the water for other needs considering the time and effort it takes students to fill and carry each container of water. This is why there is typically no handwashing, despite the school having 1 handwashing station; there is usually not enough water to allot to its use. The sanitation and hygiene situation is wanting as boys only have 2 doors of latrines after another 2 being condemned. The girls have 6 doors, though 3 are almost full. All students are struggling with the low numbers of latrines compared to their population, which grows every year.
What We Can Do:
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.
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.
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.
Training on Health, Hygiene, COVID-19, and More
We will hold a 1-day intensive training session with students, teachers, and parents. This training will cover a wide range of topics including COVID-19 symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention; 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.
Our team of facilitators will use a variety of methods to train, including participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation, and asset-based community development. We will initiate a student health club, which will prepare students to lead other pupils into healthy habits at school and at home. We will also lead lectures, group discussions, and provide illustrative handouts to teach health topics and ways to promote good hygiene practices within the school including handwashing and water treatment. We will then conduct a series of follow-up trainings before transitioning to our regularly scheduled support visits throughout the year.