The area around Friends School Demesi Secondary is vegetatively covered with trees, shrubs, and grasses. The school lies within a small tea plantation owned by the neighborhood. The area is also known for small-scale agricultural practices such as maize, vegetables, and beans. Friends School Demesi Secondary was established in 1975 by the community through Harambee, the Kenyan tradition of community-based fundraising and self-help activities to better the goals of the group. The school was later enrolled as a government school and has the Friends Church as a sponsor.
The main water source the school relies on for their 291 students and 24 staff is a hand-dug well with a handpump located on school grounds. Though the location of the water point is a plus for the school, the well runs dry after being used for too long a period each day, and during the dry season each year. When this happens, the only other water source the school has is a tiny plastic rain tank that runs dry faster than the well due to its small volume compared to the students' needs. Since these two sources are not enough to solve the water challenges at the school, the administration is forced to buy water from private vendors who take advantage of the demand and over-price their water without disclosing its origin or assuring its quality.
The well also has visible cracks that are big enough for surface runoff, soil particles, and other contaminants to penetrate the water below ground, making the water risky for consumption. Adding to this, one of the school's pit latrines is within 50 meters of the well, which is below the standard for safe distances between drinking water points and sources of human fecal contamination. Severe illnesses can result from drinking contaminated water, especially when E. coli is present.
When there is a water shortage, the school lunch program is not prepared on time, hence affecting the afternoon class schedule. The frequent water shortages also prevent the students from carrying out basic hygiene practices effectively, including handwashing, cleaning their latrines, or washing the classrooms.
"We really need additional water sources in our school. My students need to have a conducive environment for studying, and how do we create that environment? We ensure there is sufficient water to cater to hygienic activities and other purposes," said Deputy Principal Madam Margaret Adhiambo.
"The water shortage affects us as students in so many ways. When there is a water shortage, we get to class late waiting for water from the vendors to do our daily cleaning. The money used to buy water is added to our school fees, posing a burden to our parents and guardians," explained pupil Milly.
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 used by the school’s students and staff for drinking, handwashing, cooking, cleaning, and much more.
The school and we 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 unlock the potential for these students to live better, healthier lives.
The student health club will oversee the two new handwashing stations we will provide and ensure 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.
Two triple-door latrine blocks will be constructed with local materials that the school will help gather. Three doors will serve the girls, and three doors will serve the boys. These new latrines will have cement floors designed to be easy to use and 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 one-day intensive training session with students, teachers, and parents. This training will cover a wide range of topics, including COVID-19 symptoms, transmission routes, 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 various 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 home. We will also lead lectures, group discussions and provide illustrative handouts to teach health topics and promote good hygiene practices within the school, including handwashing and water treatment. We will then conduct a series of follow-up training before transitioning to our regularly scheduled support visits throughout the year.