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Location: Kenya

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  Installed

Functionality Status:  Functional

Community Profile & Stories

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

Entering Virembe Village, it would be easy to wonder why a donation should be made to such a neighborhood; there are considerable amounts of permanent houses and comfy vehicles.

Entering home after home, it seemed like our first visit to verify the school’s need would be a waste of time. But we carried on with the mission to reach the institution whose head had tirelessly called office staff begging for help. This all turned around as we drew near the school by an old gate at the corner. Vehicles and motorbikes screeching by, mixing with people’s groanings and wailings from a motorcade escorting a corpse to Imusudzu Village. We were almost mowed down by the hustle and bustle of students rushing outside the school gate to have a glimpse of the procession; they stared with sad faces to show they were in the same spirit as the mourners. Twenty minutes passed as the motorcade finally disappeared.

Inside the congested classrooms, we were welcomed by a dusty, choking atmosphere filled with the smell of human sweat. The lunch break bell had just started to ring, so the children rushed home in order to return by 2PM. Afternoon classes would then resume, only to be interrupted after forty minutes as pupils leave to fetch water from Virembe Spring.

They get back to school breathing heavily, tired after climbing the hill from the spring. This all makes it very hard to concentrate in class. A break for games is held from 4-5PM when after everyone except the watchman returns home.

They report to school the following day at 6:40AM to sweep all rooms and clean the ground in front of every classroom, collecting all rubbish before class starts at 7AM.

A school feeding program was started in 2014, but failed because parents could hardly bring maize and beans for preparing lunch. Teachers now only select a few of the poorest pupils to give food.

The school was started in 1946 as a community initiative under the able leadership of Pentecostal Assemblies of God Church. Virembe Primary School has persisted amidst all odds to become one of the best public primary schools for academic performance at all levels. It currently serves 565 students and employs 23 teachers.

(Editor’s Note: While this many people may have access on any given day, realistically a single water source can only support a population of 350-500 people.  This community would be a good candidate for a second project in the future so adequate water is available. To learn more, click here.)

More About the Area

We later learned the reason for all of the nice homes in the area, explained by the senior teacher:

“Many foreigners, especially from other tribes like Kikuyu and Luos have invaded Virembe, buying pieces of land and building nice houses around the school. Most of these foreigners are business people or individuals employed in prosperous schools and government offices, especially at Hamisi, Kaimosi, Shamakhokho, and Serem centers. Children of these well-off families go to good private schools like Shalom, Serve and Royal Academies while it is those from impecunious indigenous homes that go to Virembe Primary School. Those well-to-do families have tea plantations where some guardians of Virembe offer casual labor to earn 150 shillings per day, which can hardly fend for a family. Abject poverty is the exact definition of these people, who engage in casual work to earn a living. Most original men in this area are alcoholics, leaving their family responsibilities to either their wives or their mothers.

Pupils lack father figures in their lives and most of the times become too unruly to be controlled by their mothers – especially boys – because Tiriki culture tends to belittle women.

Almost all pupils here were born out of wedlock with their biological fathers rejecting them and their biological mothers leave the children with their old, poor grandparents as they go to work as housemaids in Nairobi or get married to husbands who cannot accept other men’s children as their own.”

Many times, teachers have sacrificed their money to buy school uniforms, learning stationery and food for the very poor children just to keep them in school.

Proximity to the Shamakhokho–Serem main tarmac road that passes by the gate is one of the greatest challenges to this institution: During lunch break, some students are seen playing football as they cross the road, which puts them at risk of being crushed or hit by running vehicles. The nursery children must be brought by their guardians and helped to cross the busy road every morning. When returning home, the Early Childhood Education (ECDE) teachers must hold children’s hands one by one until they all cross the road to head home by themselves.

Thursdays are the worst of all days for this institution. Friends and family members hire vehicles and motorbikes to carry mourners to mortuaries where the bodies of their dear ones are preserved before transportation to their own homes for burial. Relatives with other mourners wail, shout in anger, scream and cry, as well as sing dirges at the top of their voices on their way to the morgue and also as they transport the remains of the dead back home from the mortuaries. The funeral noises have always disrupted classes.

Alcoholism has become a cancer in this village. Pupils are affected by it both directly and indirectly. Some women have ventured into the business of brewing and selling local alcohol. One such woman is Getrude – who sells alcohol out of her home just next to the school fence. She is arrogant when spoken to, and fears nothing since she is known allover, including by the government representatives and police who she bribes to continue her illegal business. “We really had a problem last year when our standard eight boys used to take alcohol from that den and then misbehave in school,” Teacher Shibira shared. “This is the worst environment to raise a child, but we have no ability to remove them from this environment. The best we can do is give counseling to our children,” she continued. These pupils see a father figure in their male teachers.

Water Situation

A well was installed years ago, but it only served the school for a short time. Whether it rains or not, the well is always dry. The school thus purchased a 1000-liter plastic tank to help them alleviate the water shortage, but it is much too small to serve a student population of 565.

Children are instead sent to Virembe Spring, which was protected by a few people that have since moved away from the village. We met some women at the spring who said it used to be a good place to draw safe water, but it has since started falling apart. Students go there at noon and during the afternoon hours to wait in long lines to fetch water. The village also has a rule that all students must wait until the locals finish gathering their water. The path gets muddy during the rainy seasons, and many students have fallen and suffered injury.

Once water is carried back to school, it is stored in plastic drums or the same containers used for fetching. Some students were observed drinking directly from their water containers.

The headteacher says that poor health is directly a result of not having enough water. Classrooms are cleaned only once a week, and children hardly get to wash their hands after using the latrine.

Sanitation Situation

There are 12 pit latrines on school grounds; four for boys, six for girls, and two for teachers. These latrines are old and dirty, and many of the doors have large holes that deprive students of privacy.

There is just one hand-washing station for students, but the water shortage issue often forces the school to sacrifice hand-washing.

“I attribute our poor health standards to the lack of enough clean water and latrines. To add on that, we have despised hygiene messages and believed that we know everything, and this has costed us a lot of money wasted to pay medical bills when we go to hospitals. I’ve been to the hospital several times because of diarrhea, and that is when I started practicing good hygiene. But we still have ignorant people who need to be enlightened,” said a local man.

Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training

Parents, teachers, and students will be trained for two days of sessions on hygiene and sanitation.

This training is meant to equip participants with the skills needed to practice good hygiene, and to promote these practices among peers and the greater community. The end goal is to eliminate water and hygiene-related diseases!

The facilitator plans to use PHAST (Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Training), CTC (child to child), discussions, lectures, and demonstrations to teach topics including but not limited to disease transmission, hand-washing, and water treatment. After our initial assessment of conditions, our facilitator also plans to strongly emphasize the importance of having and using both latrine and hand-washing facilities. The CTC method will prepare students to lead other students into healthy habits, as well as kickstart a CTC club for the school.

Plans: Rainwater Catchment Tank

A 50,000-liter rainwater catchment tank will be constructed on school grounds. Teachers, students, and parents will gather the local materials needed for this project, including sand, ballast, bricks, and hardcore. This contribution will fuel a sense of responsibility for the school and community to take care of their new facilities. Once materials are mobilized, the WEWASAFO team will arrive to lead the construction effort. Once construction wraps up, the tank will begin collecting valuable rainwater that we will disinfect with chlorine; water that is safe for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and everything else that students need! Students will no longer waste class time searching for water that often ends up being too dirty for drinking.

Plans: VIP Latrines

Two triple-door latrines will be constructed, providing three new latrines for each gender. Latrine materials will be mobilized the same way as the tank, ensuring the school feels these facilities are truly theirs. And with a rainwater catchment tank nearby, there will be enough water to keep them clean.

Plans: Hand-Washing Stations

Two hand-washing stations will be delivered to the school before training. These new stations come in the form of two 60-liter containers fitted with a tap. The training facilitator will demonstrate how to properly wash hands, and then students will have a chance to practice in groups. The CTC club will be responsible for filling the hand-washing containers on a daily basis and seeing that there’s enough cleaning agent. They will be able to follow through with this thanks to the water tank on school grounds.

The actions described above will give students an environment that is conducive to learning. It’ll free up so much time that was used going to and from the spring. This is an opportunity they deserve!

Recent Project Updates

05/05/2017: Virembe Primary School Project Complete

Virembe Primary School in Kenya now has a new source of safe, clean water thanks to your generous donation. A new rainwater catchment system has been built, and there are now six new latrines being used. Two hand-washing stations have been installed, and the entire student body has received training in sanitation and hygiene. Just imagine the difference these resources will make in the lives of these students!

You made it happen, now help keep the water flowing! Join our team of monthly donors and help us maintain this rainwater catchment tank and many other projects.

The report below from our partner gives the latest details of the project. We also just updated the project page with new pictures.

Project Result: New Knowledge

Hygiene and sanitation training was held in the Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) Church that is located adjacent to the school compound. The church is also the sponsor of the school. This venue was selected because there were no empty classrooms that could be used during the normal school day. And it had to be inside, because the sky was showing signs of rain.

11 kenya4648 training

The participants were invited through school administration. Pupils were selected from classes four to seven. There were five boys and six girls who represented the students, while two parents came on behalf of the rest. The headteacher and teacher in charge of sanitation attended, while their sponsor, the PAG pastor was present as well.

Everyone was very enthusiastic to learn, actively participating in activities like group discussions. Headteacher Sylvester Madegwa opened training by saying, “This is a life-changing training because what you will learn here has never been taught in class. Therefore, pay attention so that you internalize everything that you will learn here and make sure you go and teach others so that everyone in this community changes for the better.”

9 kenya4648 tank maintenance training

We taught an entire lesson on management and maintenance of the new tank and latrine facilities. Regular checking and cleaning of the gutter system is a must! It’s also important to treat the water while it is still in the tank. We also covered topics including but not limited to:

– Water pollution and water treatment

– Personal and environmental hygiene

– Group dynamics, leadership, and governance

– Forming an effective CTC (child to child) club

– Hand-washing

We used a number of different ways to teach the above topics, while demonstrations were used for hand-washing and tooth-brushing. We facilitated group discussions and presentations. The girls and boys also received handouts which will help them teach hygiene and sanitation to their peers.

4 kenya4648 water treatment training

The child to child club will include both students and teachers who want to take responsibility for spreading the message of good health and hygiene among their peers. They will also be responsible for taking care of the new hand-washing stations, making sure they are always filled with water and that a cleaning agent like soap or ash is available. A water user committee has also been formed by parents and school administration, which will be responsible for overseeing and maintaining the new facilities.

32 kenya4648 Deborah Betu

The day after training, we arrived again at the school to check on students and staff. The hand-washing stations were in place at each block of latrines, and students were lining up and using them before returning to class. We also met the teacher in charge of the CTC club, Mrs. Deborah Betu (pictured above). She’s already been teaching fellow staff about what she learned during training. “As I preach or get a chance to teach others, I do share the message bit by bit,” she said. Just yesterday, she called other female staff together to teach new concepts on menstrual hygiene.

Project Result: Hand-Washing Stations

The two hand-washing stations were delivered to school and handed over to the CTC club. They will teach other students how to properly wash their hands at these stations, and will make sure there is always soap or ash available. Now the school has the stations they need, and they have the water to fill them! The CTC students even want to make their own hand-washing stations to give every student the opportunity to wash their hands.

38 kenya4648 hand-washing station

Project Result: VIP Latrines

This project funded the installation of six new VIP (ventilated improved pit) latrines. These latrines are easy to use and easy to clean. And with a rainwater catchment tank, there should be enough water to keep them clean all the time!

26 kenya4648 construction

Excavation of the latrine pits took the most time, since the soil in this area is very hard. It took a lot of extra resources just to break through these hard layers.

33 kenya4648 finished latrines

Project Result: Rainwater Catchment Tank

Construction on this 50,0000-liter tank began in March.

Parents, staff, and students first helped our artisans gather everything needed for construction. All the while, women cooked meals for the artisans who traveled to the construction site.

15 kenya4648 construction

First, the location for the tank was decided on with the input of school leadership. We had to find a place that provided enough roof for a gutter system. We then cleared the ground, set and cast the foundational slab, built the five-inch-thick wall, built roofing, and installed the fittings such as delivery pipes, vent pipes, and screens. Finally, good drainage was ensured. Before the tank could begin collecting rainwater, we had it cure for three weeks. Once dry, we could remove the supportive beams and then install the gutter system. The school now has the opportunity to collect 50,000 liters of water!

22 kenya4648 construction

The community could not hide their joy when they noticed that the WEWASAFO artisans were ten times better than most of the masons they have around. The work that other local artisans over a month, we managed to do in just four days. An example was for construction of latrines: The board members were amazed to see that within four days, the artisan was done with the foundation, walling, and roofing of the first three-door latrine block. The only things remaining were finishing touches. To the school and community, that was good planning and an excellent use of time. Headteacher Sylvester Madegwa was never tired of giving the artisans a high-five. He said that parents have already been asking for the contact information of the artisans and want their assistance putting us sanitation infrastructure in their own homes.

23 kenya4648 Artisan Henry Madangi

Teacher Deborah Betu once struggled with her students to maintain high living standards at school. “We have had it rough on our pupils trying to maintain hygiene in the absence of water within the school compound. But now I am confident that their classrooms will be mopped daily and they will be drinking clean and safe water whose source we know. This is very important in controlling waterborne diseases, saving on time for learning, and promoting general hygiene,” she said.

The headteacher was also very happy. “Our pupils, fellow teachers and myself can now drink clean water from the school water harvesting and storage tank. The environment will be clean and children will improve health-wise because they will have enough time to engage in their studies and have a rest, unlike when we used to send them to the spring from time to time.” He also confided that he used to buy packaged water for drinking, for he feared contracting waterborne diseases if he drank water brought from the spring by pupils. “The water came from different sources, and I once drunk from it and had throat problems. My teachers used to get their drinking water from one of our staff members, Madam Margaret, who has a plastic water storage tank at her home. Being a neighbor to the school, she accepted to come to the help of her fellow colleagues.”

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02/17/2017: Virembe Primary School

We are excited to report that, thanks to your willingness to help, Virembe Primary School in Kenya is building a new source of safe, clean water. A rainwater catchment tank and new latrines are being constructed, hand-washing stations provided, and the school is being trained on proper sanitation and hygiene practices. Imagine the impact this will have on these students! Thank you for noticing the need here, and we’ll keep you posted as the work continues.

Check out the tabs above to learn more, and Thank You for caring for these children!

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Explore More of The Project

Project Photos

Monitoring Data

Project Type:  Rainwater Catchment
Location:  Vihiga, Jivovoli, Virembe
ProjectID: 4648
Install Date:  05/05/2017

Monitoring Data
Water Point:
Last Visit: 09/21/2017

Visit History:
06/29/2017 — Functional
09/21/2017 — Functional


Project Sponsor - Imago Dei Community
1 individual donor(s)

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Country Details


Population: 39.8 Million
Lacking clean water: 43%
Below poverty line: 50%

Partner Profile

Western Water and Sanitation Forum (WEWASAFO) works together with less privileged and marginalized members of communities in Western Kenya to reduce poverty through harnessing and utilization of local resources for sustainable development.