The growing demand for more houses is slowly turning this former village of large beautiful trees covered with green vegetation into a busy suburb of Freetown with loud music, beeping cars and a lot of homes.
Sulaiman Memorial Academy Jr. Secondary School was started by Mr. Yusuf Sesay to help lift up the education of community members. The school was completed and opened its doors in 2016 with a beginning roster of 90 students. The school is slowly gaining popularity and increasing in population with a current total of 150 students. The school’s financial responsibility rests solely on one individual, the proprietor and acting principal Mr. Yusuf Sesay. The Principal is currently working on the school to be considered a government-assisted school. The approval will lessen the financial burden on one person and will make the students eligible for the free education program that was started this academic year.
The incomplete hand-dug well on the school grounds is evidence of the challenge faced by Mr. Sesay. It was not dug deep enough to produce reliable water, so there is no real source of water at the school. The students must then travel to a protected well located at the main junction in the village.
The absence of a reliable source of clean water throughout the year puts the community as well as the school children at great risk of drinking water from unreliable and contaminated sources. The only functioning protected water well that serves thousands of people. The everyday demand for water leaves the well with lots of containers and arguments.
When there is a shortage of clean water or people tire of waiting in line at the community well, people turn to drink the water from the nearest stream. This stream's running water in the rainy season is so high that it makes the road impassable. But the water has reduced so much due to the dry season that most vegetables planted here die due to the lack of water. The weekends are spent at the stream for women, men and children all fighting for a standing spot to launder. The same water that is used to launder clothes is also the water used for cooking and drinking when all other water sources have dried up or inaccessible.
"I am also a member of the community that lives approximately 250 meters from the school compound. When the only protected well is broken down, everybody is left with no option but to resort to using water from less desirable sources," said one of our staff.
"The people are left with frequent visits to the hospital with illnesses ranging from fever, typhoid, diarrhea, skin rashes, worms and parasites all from drinking contaminated water. The scarcity of water will also translate to very poor sanitation maintenance and practices."
The lack of water at the school is a significant burden on the students. We spoke with Rugiatu, the head girl at the school. She often assigns her classmates to fetch water and has to do it herself sometimes. The burden of fetching water affects the performance of the students, she said.
"The going back and forth to the water source coupled with my three miles walk back home leaves me physically exhausted at the end of the day," she continued.
Here’s what we’re going to do about it:
The well marked for this overhaul is dry and needs major work to supply adequate, clean water to the school year-round. The top 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.
Hygiene and Sanitation Training
There will be hygiene and sanitation training sessions offered for three days in a row.
After our visit, the hygiene and sanitation trainer decided it would be best to teach community members how to build a tippy tap (a hand-washing 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.