This project is a part of our shared program with Western Water And Sanitation Forum (WEWASAFO). Our team is pleased to directly share the below report (edited for clarity, as needed).
Welcome to the School
Friends Makuchi Secondary is a school that was started in the late 1970s but shut down for more than a decade because of non-committal parents and the difficult culture of the Tiriki tribe. The cultural beliefs had such a negative impact, greatly encouraging indiscipline among the students. It wasn't until 1987 that the community members, realizing how difficult it was to raise a child in the darkness of no education, made a change. They united to revive the school that same year.
The Tiriki are one of the sub-tribes of the Luhya Community in Kenya. Mrs. Leonida Anita Vuguza, the longest serving accounts clerk at the school, said that "Our culture has been a big hindrance for the school growth and development agendas to pick up effectively. The situations normally get worse during the Tiriki circumcision period when boys are radicalized against the female gender. During such seasons, pregnancy cases rise, school dropout is so rampant and many women get raped. To my surprise, the men, who pride themselves as the custodians of the culture, do so little to discourage these act of women violation, disrespect of female teachers by boys and unwanted pregnancies during and after initiation of the boy-child."
(Editor's Note: Our partners in Kenya work to counter negative beliefs. In fact, many women lead these water and sanitation projects. The above quote describes the rare case of a village that is still steeped in traditional outlooks and practices.)
Makuchi Secondary School now has a total of 12 teachers and 10 support staff employed, and the student population currently stands at 304. The school is located about 10 kilometers from the Kapsabet-Chavakali Road in Makuchi Village, Shaviringa, Tiriki East Division, Hamisi of Vihiga County. Due to its centrality in the region and the huge playing field, the school has been hosting tournaments and sporting events on a regular basis. "The events are hosted here at our door, and that means our sanitation facilities and water reservoirs are always used during such events," Mr. Alex Jumba, the school deputy principal shared.
A normal school day begins at 7AM with students attending morning study hall. They assemble in the field at 8AM for morning announcements, and then have a short break to get settled in for normal classes. These go until 4PM each weekday.
Mrs. Alice Mugodo, 54, is the school principal. She said the inadequacy of water within the school has been one of the biggest challenges during her short period at the school. "When I was posted here from Moi Girls Vokoli High School at the beginning of 2016, it was obvious to me that I had an elephant to face in this institution. Am married to this community and am well-conversant how risky it is to send the girls in search of water at any time of the day."
The school has one 6,000-liter plastic tank which is used for the laboratory's practical lessons and a 30,000-liter cement tank that serves the kitchen, cleaning of classrooms, watering the two dairy cattle and drinking purposes. As pointed out by Leonida, it is a dangerous thing to send students out for water when the tank dries, especially female students. But unfortunately, the water tank can hardly serve the school for a fortnight! She told us, "We have been forced to buy water at 15 shillings per 20-liter container, and thus the school is spending at least 300 daily once our tank is depleted. This we have to do in an attempt to retain our students at school." When listing some of the most recent consequences of water shortage, she had the following to say: "Based on our setting and the infamous culture around us, we do try to leave no stone unturned to support the girl-child's education. However, we have had innumerable cases where students just disappear from school when sent to fetch water from streams; some choose to become house-girls and others have been victims of teenage pregnancy. Last year alone the institution was worst hit by the repercussions of the drought: A total of 13 girls got pregnant and one form one girl disappeared from school for a whole term, but she later came back."
(Editor's Note: Buying water from vendors isn't like picking it up from the grocery store. These "vendors" fill containers themselves at any source they can find. Their only goal is to sell a full container, even sacrificing water quality for quantity.)
The school has one semi-permanent kitchen that is fairly clean. This facility was hurriedly constructed to replace a grass-thatched one that was razed the middle of last year during the school's Annual General Meeting session. This kitchen supports the school's feeding program.
There are nine simple pit latrines serving 149 girls. These facilities were built by parents after the county public health department threatened to close down the school because it was far below the set sanitation standards. 155 boys are left without any good option. There are also four latrine doors that are full, and two others used by the staff members.
The school has one hand-washing station in the hall, but for the most part is left empty because of the water shortage.
Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training and Hand-Washing Stations
Training will be held for two days. The facilitator will use PHAST (participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation), ABCD (asset-based community development), CTC (child to child), lectures, group discussions, and handouts to teach health topics and ways to promote good practices within the school. The CTC method will prepare students to lead other students into healthy habits, as well as kickstart a CTC club for the school. This CTC club will oversee the new facilities, such as hand-washing stations, and make sure they are kept clean and in working condition. The two hand-washing stations will be delivered to the school, and the club will fill them with water on a daily basis and make sure there is always a cleaning agent such as soap or ash.
Plans: VIP Latrines
Six new latrines with privacy walls will be built. As sanitation stands now, boys are badly off while girls have been relieved of pressure since new latrines were constructed for their use. It is left to the school administration to balance the equation and ensure that both genders are comfortable.
And with a new source of water on school grounds, students and staff should have enough to keep these new latrines clean!
Plans: Rainwater Catchment Tank
A 50,000-liter rainwater catchment tank will help alleviate the water crisis at this school. The school will also help gather the needed materials such as sand, rocks, and water from the spring for mixing cement. Once finished, this tank can begin catching rainfall that will be used by the school’s students and staff. Staff will no longer have to hire outsiders to fill water containers, nor students leave their school in search of water.
More water will strengthen the school lunch program, and the school strongly believes that with this assistance, standards will significantly improve. These higher standards will translate to better academic performance!
Principal Mugodo also added that yes, "the village has been sick, sometimes due to bad culture that eroded social well-being of the female. However, peaceful coexistence is fast replacing the old mentality." Clean water is a big step in improving the life of the girl-child.