The well at DEC Makassa Primary School is in very good order and the school maintains it throughout the year.
There is just one problem: It runs dry at various points throughout the year.
When there is no water, the 458 students and staff must turn to the nearest swamp to meet their daily needs. Not only is the swamp two kilometers away, but the water is unsafe for consumption. As a result, students lose valuable school time traveling back and forth to the source just to get water that is prone to making them ill so that they miss even more school.
"The only problem we face is when the water quantity in the well falls. Our kids would be required to go to neighboring communities to fetch water. Under this circumstance, our sanitation would be largely undermined," said Headteacher Sulaiman Conteh.
Most of the students come from very poor homes with parents who cannot afford daily lunch for their school-going kids. So, they rely on water to curb their hunger pangs.
Acute water shortage in this school when the well is dry also exposes the school and its surrounding community to a host of compromised hygiene and sanitation issues.
This well needs to be converted from a hand-dug well to a borehole using a hand drill method, because it needs additional depth to eliminate the chances of dryness in the dry season. It is advisable to have its pump changed because the current pump is old.
The well marked for this overhaul is dry for multiple months at a time and needs major work to supply adequate, clean water to the community year round. The pump will be removed, and a hand auger will be lowered inside and powered by a drill team. This hand auger will allow the team to drill several meters deeper to hit a sufficient water column that will ensure the well supplies water throughout all seasons.
As the team drills, casing will be installed, transforming the bottom of this hand-dug well into a 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 community will have access to safe drinking water in both quality and quantity, even through the dry months.
To further improve the sanitation and hygiene situation here, there will be training sessions offered for three days in a row.
After our visit, the hygiene and sanitation trainer decided it would be best to teach students and community members how to build a tippy tap (a handwashing station built with a jerrycan, string, and sticks). They will use these tippy taps for handwashing demonstrations, and will also teach about other tools like dish racks and the importance of properly penning in animals.
These trainings will also strengthen the water user committee that manages and maintains this well. They enforce proper behavior and report to us whenever they need our help solving a serious problem, like a pump breakdown.