Project Status

Project Type:  Rainwater Catchment

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 306 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jun 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/08/2024

Project Features

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Please note, original photos were taken before the pandemic.

Mwembe Primary School began in 1978 with just 23 pupils. Today, there are 292 students and 14 teachers, but still no source of water on school grounds.

The lack of water on campus means the entire school relies on students carrying water from home for all of the school's drinking, cooking, and cleaning needs. But the students can never carry enough to meet all of these needs. Still, it is a daily requirement the school has no choice but to enforce.

A normal school day for a student at Mwembe Primary School begins at 7:30 am when students arrive in school carrying water from home in their jerrycans. This water is for the school cook's use in cooking lunch and washing dishes. Classes begin at 8:00 am and run until 12:45 pm with a late-morning break, unless the morning water collection was not enough to cook lunch. In that case, students are sent back home during their morning lessons to fetch more water.

At the lunch break, the pupils carry their jerrycans home once more so they can come back with more water for the afternoon. This second round of water is used to clean classrooms and latrines at 3.00 pm, when pupils finish their learning for the day before they go home. There is not enough water to do their cleaning routine thoroughly, however, and there is never enough for handwashing. Sometimes dishes must also be left dirty at the end of the day.

There are many complications to an entire school relying on students for water. Pupils often arrive late and tired from their burdensome walk, as they also must carry their books and belongings every day. Sometimes students are then too tired to focus well in class, impacting their performance.

"We are not able to clear our syllabus at the end of the year because most of the time we are out looking for water, and this has contributed to poor results in our national examinations. It's our prayer that our school will be one of the schools that will benefit from WASH facilities," said pupil Margret.

Since teachers and parents alike cannot monitor the children as they fetch water at home, no one is sure of which source is safe for consumption and which is dirty. Even clean water is contaminated by pupils' dirty containers or unwashed hands as they carry the containers to school. And once at school, the water is combined for use, so even 1 contaminated source means everyone is at risk of water-related diseases.

The headteacher reported that the performance of the school has really gone down because most pupils are always absent from school due to health problems mainly related to waterborne diseases. The rate of water-related diseases is very high and a lot of money is spent on medication instead of paying school fees for the pupils to be at school throughout the year.

"Precious time for both teachers and pupils is wasted because at times, we take the pupils out of class to go and get water so that meals can be prepared. We are unable to clean our sanitation facilities daily because we lack water within our school compound," explained teacher Francis Ingairu.

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

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.

Project Updates

June, 2021: Mwembe Primary School Rain Tank Complete!

Mwembe 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.

"With clean and safe water at school, there will be a great improvement in my academic performance," said Hilton, a nine-year-old male student.

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

"Having this water point within our school compound has made everything possible. I have great hope that my school will not be the same again. The school's performance will improve, and the student population will increase," said Francis Ing'airu, a teacher.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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. 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.

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.

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.

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 six new ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines, three for the girls and three for the boys. 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.

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. 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.

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 Betty Muhongo and Victor Musemi deployed to the site to lead the event. Ten students and teachers attended the training, which we held.

We did the training at the playground within the school compound. The community chose the venue because it was spacious enough to accommodate the participants and observe COVID19 rules. The headteacher, Mr. Francis Ing'airu, was in charge of planning and organizing the training. Since the pupils were on holiday, he recruited participants who live near the school.

We focused on COVID-19 prevention, transmission, and symptoms while also covering several other topics. These included personal hygiene such as bathing, oral hygiene, and the ten 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.

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.

The training facilitators wanted to know if pupils had correct information about dental hygiene. The trainers observed that a number of the pupils did not brush their teeth properly, and the majority of them brush their teeth in the morning before taking breakfast, and none of them brush their teeth after supper. Therefore, the facilitators led the participants through the dental hygiene lessons to share new information and healthy practices.

"It's through this training that I was able to learn that I need to brush my teeth after every meal. I have been brushing my teeth first thing in the morning before I do anything else. With this knowledge, I will have healthy teeth, and I will teach my family members to do the same," said Christable, a female student.

We asked Erick 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.

"Staying at home for almost a year has not been easy since there was no freedom of movement. Being a new pupil at Mwembe primary school, I had started making friendships with some of my classmates but was unable to stay in touch. That period was boring and stressful because of the fear and rumors people were spreading all over. I was very happy when I learned that schools were being opened."

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!

May, 2021: Mwembe Primary School Project Underway!

A severe clean water shortage at Mwembe 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: Teacher Now Loves His Work!

July, 2022

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mwembe 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 Mwembe Primary School, the entire school relied on students carrying water from home for all of the school’s drinking, cooking, and cleaning needs. And even though sourcing water every day was exhausting for the students, the school still never had enough water for all of its needs.

"We used to drink dirty water," said 43-year-old teacher Francis Ing'airu. "The pupils used to fetch water from far [away] and they looked tired, even in class."

But now, with year-round water on school grounds, both students and teachers spend more time in class.

"It feels good to get water in school," Francis continued. "This has made pupils' and teachers' lives in school enjoyable. As a teacher, I do love my work more than I used to because all the pupils are always in class on time. This water point has helped me to have more time with my pupils."

With more time in class and less time searching for water, students can foster hopes for brighter, healthier futures.

Francis uses 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 Mwembe 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 Mwembe 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.


Data Abstract Solutions, Inc.
Facebook Donations
Ford Foundation Employee Match
Campbell Soup Company Employee Match
Water For Water
St. Anne's Episcopal School 2F
Abderrahmane-Mohamed Rguioui
Girl Scout Troop 6021
CFI 84's 2nd Grade Campaign for Water
84 individual donor(s)