This project is a part of our shared program with Mariatu’s Hope of Sierra Leone. Our team is pleased to directly share the below report (edited for clarity, as needed).
Welcome to the School
Gbaneh Bana SLMB was founded in 1983. The school started with only two classes, first and second grade. Enrollment immediately started growing. They participated in their first National Primary School Examination (NPSE) in the 1989-1990 school year, with ten students sitting for the exam. We met Mr. Osman I. Turay, one of the first students who ever attended this school. He is now a teacher at this school, bringing a legacy of many years with him.
The school is headed by Mrs. Isatu Kanu, who is now concluding her first year as the headteacher. The school has reached out to the government for a program to help feed its hungry students. The school uses these funds to feed students lunch every Tuesday and Thursday, providing it free of charge.
A normal day for students starts at 8:30am when they arrive. The school opens with prayer, the pledge of allegiance and national anthem. This kind of start to the day isn't unique to this school; respect for the country is part of every school program. The teachers then make sure that students keep the compound clean, delegating class chores before lessons start. The lunch hour is at 11:20am, with students sometimes returning home for lunch. School dismisses at different times depending on the class, with younger classes dismissing first. This school was originally a primary school, but now it also has a junior secondary school.
Gbaneh Bana SLMB Primary School now has a total enrollment of 356 students and employs 12 teachers. Besides the school, there are 14 households and an additional 161 people who fetch their water from the well here.
We have monitored this water well for quite some time. A few years ago, this well was slated to be deepened because the water table had dropped. For months at a time, students, staff, and community members would use the pump but no water would come out.
However, another organization came by to construct new latrines. When they did, they put a new pump on the well with their logo. Unfortunately, a new pump doesn't solve a problem with water levels! The school is very disappointed about how this delayed actual resolution, and they have worked very well with our team for the past year to provide data and begin this process.
Students and community members should not have to return to the open stream for water, but they have no other choice. The stream is miles away from the school, causing students to be late. What's worse, students and community members walk miles for dirty water that gives them diarrhea and stomachaches.
There are five usable latrines on school grounds. Two are for girls, two for boys, and one for teachers. There is open defecation both by the students and the community. It is not uncommon at all to see people easing themselves in the bushes and behind the school, even though there are latrines nearby. This is a cultural issue. We will sensitize both the community and school about good and bad hygiene and what makes a healthy and unhealthy community; if you are defecating in your community and school, you are creating an unhealthy environment.
Headteacher Kanu told us, "The students do wash their hands and sweep the school grounds. We have them clean the latrines at the end of every week. We are very thankful for the intervention of digging this water well deeper. We have strained for a long time."
Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training
Community members, teachers, and students will be trained at the school for three days, three hours a day.
Our facilitator plans to use the PHAST (Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Training) method, group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations to teach about management and maintenance of the new pump, diseases transmission, hand-washing, building latrines and using them, and constructing dish racks. An entire session will lead participants through how to build a “tippy-tap,” which is a hand-washing station made from a jerrycan, rope, and sticks.
Training will also result in the formation of a water user committee that will take responsibility for their new well. The members will manage and maintain the pump to the best of their ability, and will call our office if they need a mechanic to make a repair.
Plans: Well Rehabilitation
The well marked for this overhaul needs major work to supply adequate, clean water to the area once again. The pump will be removed, and a man will be lowered inside with a hand auger. This hand auger will allow the team to drill several meters deeper to hit a new water table, which will ensure the well supplies water throughout the drier seasons. As the team drills, casing will be installed, transforming this hand-dug well into a pseudo-borehole. PVC piping will connect this lower system directly to the pump, a construction that we know will also improve the quality of water.
Once this plan is implemented, everyone within the school and surrounding community will have access to safe drinking water in both quality and quantity.