The Kankalay Primary and Secondary School began as just a primary school in 1991. It was started with the help of the community and the Kankalay Islamic Mission, enrolling 50 students in its first year. The secondary section of the school was established later, in 2001, with 67 students using a single classroom in the primary school building. Today, the primary and secondary schools have their own unique buildings to accommodate their growing population. Combined, the primary and secondary schools educate some 535 students and have 25 teachers.
The students who have gone through this school system have been fortunate to move on to bigger and better things, parents say, which have proven beneficial for the community.
But the lack of a reliable source of water for the schools remains a major hindrance to education here.
The school's well is a casualty of the effect of global warming. The well fell victim to seasonal drying, which sends the students to neighboring private homes to fetch water. The children whose turn it is to fetch water are selected based on tardiness. The students who already missed class time by arriving late miss more learning to go get the water - putting them further behind in their studies.
Isatu is the head girl for the primary school. It is her job to select which students have to travel to get water when the school well is not functioning. She described why it is difficult to be in charge of choosing who goes to get water.
"Selecting students every morning to fetch water is a decision that I sometimes do not want to make. The decision of who to fetch water is based on the students that are latecomers. I find it difficult to choose the same students every day due to coming to school late," she said.
"Some of these students are my friends, and they live very far from the school. Making it to school on time is nearly impossible. They have to perform many chores before leaving for school every morning. Some of them do not get to eat anything before leaving home in the morning."
"I have lost several friends, and to avoid being left with no friends, I help them fetch a few buckets of water every day. I don't want to lose my friends."
"When the well at the school can finally provide water all year round, I will be the happiest person in the village," Isatu told us.
When there is no water in the school well, the students must travel to the community's gated home compounds to fetch water before the start of class every morning. The compounds are sometimes locked, however, in which case the students must go without water to drink. The other alternative is to walk along the highway to access a community well that is more than 500 meters away from the school compound. With the frequent accidents happening along the highway, parents have complained about their children being exposed to such dangerous behavior.
Even when students do gain access to the gated compounds, they cannot carry enough water back to meet the entire school's needs. The water students fetch in the morning inevitably runs out mid-day.
The lack of an adequate water supply increases students' chances of exposure to illnesses. Without water in the latrines, the students resort to using notebook paper to clean themselves after going to the bathroom.
When the school well is functioning, the students bring an empty plastic water bottle that they refill as many times as they need. But access is limited during the dry season when the water table drops and the well does not produce enough water. Students stand in line to get a sip of water from the containers holding water collected earlier in the day.
"My students are presently suffering to get adequate water supply. They travel to the community to fetch water, which is against the law for school children to leave the school compound after they have left their homes for school," said James H. Kamanda, the Principal of the secondary school.
"Parents are adamantly against sending their children on a busy highway to fetch water, a risk I am unable to take daily. I am truly against any of the school children leaving school to search for water."
Here’s what we’re going to do about it:
The well marked for this overhaul is dry for a few months every year 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 to ensure the well supplies water throughout all seasons.
As the team drills, the 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 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.
This training 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.