This school was constructed and opened in 2003 by the Shepherd Foundation and is funded by the New Apostolic Church. The Church has been part of the community for quite a long time. It started as a private donor school, but through the years, the government has verified and taken on the role of a government-assisted school helping to pay the salaries of some of the teachers. The school started with just 28 students in 2003 and has grown to 136 students today.
Mahera community is home to swampland which people use to plant fruits and vegetables. The swamps are the dividing lines between communities. The closer you get to the swamp, the taller the trees become, giving the crops enough needed shade to protect them from the harmful effects of the intense sun.
Mahera community is also a great source for fishing and sand mining. Both jobs bring in a lot of money for the chiefdom. The homes are built with mud blocks and cement plastering.
The primary well at the school has a problem with seasonal drying. The hand-dug well was not dug deep enough. This means that each March and April, the entire community goes through a severe water crisis.
When the well goes dry, the students and local community members are left with no option but to go to different parts of the community searching for water. Sometimes during the year, the community has complained of the water having a bad odor and light brown color - signs that the water is contaminated and that the well requires rehabilitation.
"I am constantly at the edge of my seat until I see that time of year when our well dries has long gone and there are no incidents with any of my students. There is a price to pay for being the Head Teacher of a primary school. Apart from the cries and complaints of children, I am obligated and responsible for everyone in the school until the bell rings for everyone to go home," said Head Teacher Fatmata Kalokoh.
Whenever there is a water shortage at this well, the entire population settles for a less reliable, unsafe water source. The children in the upper classes are given the responsibility of going home with drinking buckets and bringing them back filled with water the following day. But not just any student is asked. The latecomers are singled out and given the responsibility of bringing water to school. The children take the long walk very early in the morning and walk to school with the water and immediately go back home to complete their chores before preparing for the school day.
"I never want the dry season to come because that is when our well on the school ground goes dry. We are left with limited options as to where we fetch our drinking water. I never have to fetch water for the school, but I have my chores at home," shared Andrew K, the Headboy of the school.
"What I am fearful of is the latecomers that have to take the containers home with them to fetch water for the following day. I am given the responsibility of picking out the latecomers, and that is one responsibility I am really not fond of."
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. We will remove the pump, 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
Our team will offer hygiene and sanitation training sessions 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.