There is no water at Mungabira Primary School for the 702 students and 12 teachers and staff who come here every day. Andrea Chesikani founded the school in 1983 when he donated land for the institution because he was concerned that local kids had to travel too far to access an education. Since then, however, little has changed at the school aside from the growing student population. In fact, since 2006, the school has actually registered declining academic performance. Teachers and staff say that their severe water shortage is directly connected to the school's poor performance.
To meet the school's drinking, cooking, and cleaning needs, teachers have to ask students to carry water from home each morning. Then, when that water runs out in the afternoon, they send students out into the village to fetch water at a protected spring during lunch and game times.
"The students feel that they are being punished when asked to fetch water. This demoralizes them whenever they realize it's break time or games time," said teacher Judith Chebechuma.
The morning walk to school carrying water and books is cumbersome for students on the hilly terrain. Some arrive late because they had to find water at home first. Others arrive too tired to focus well.
"Climbing this slope with water is always stressful. We are always punished when we forget our water container at home," said student Charles.
At the spring, there are constant conflicts between students and community members. The adults often do not allow the students to fetch water until all community members have fetched it, sometimes forcing pupils to compete with their own parents for water. Community members say students do not adhere to the spring rules as stipulated by the water user committee, compromising the spring's structure and quality.
The school's neighboring properties also complain that the students destroy their farms on the spring path, including their valuable sugarcane and vegetable crops. Because the path goes steeply downhill to the spring and includes a bushy area, teachers are apprehensive about students' safety as they cannot be observed on their walks to fetch water. All of these walks and the long wait time at the spring further detract from students' class time and energy.
Even when some of the water students fetch is clean, their containers are not contaminating the water as it is combined for use at school. Stomachaches are common among those who drink the students' water, teachers and pupils agree. Without enough water to meet even drinking and cooking needs, cleaning the latrines and handwashing are frequently sacrificed. This perpetuates the cycle of diarrheal diseases, absenteeism, and declining academic performance.
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.
There is currently nowhere for students to wash their hands after using the latrines or before eating lunch, let alone the water.
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.
We will construct two triple-door latrine blocks using local materials that the school will help gather. Three doors will serve the girls, while the other three 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.