In August 2013, work began on a project to improve access to clean, safe water in two schools – Mavindini Primary School and Thavu Secondary School – in Kathonzweni District, Makueni County of Eastern Province, Kenya. The project was delivered by Just a Drop with local partner the African Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF) and sponsored by the Brooks Foundation.
The project involved a rainwater harvesting system being built at each school. Guttering was placed along existing classroom roofs to collect rainwater that was then stored in 104M³ storage tanks, that were constructed as part of the project.
As a result 442 school children aged between 6-18 years now have access to clean safe water; 183 boys and 177 girls from Mavindini Primary School and 38 boys and 44 girls from Thavu Secondary School.
The overall goal of this project was to increase access to clean drinking water. In turn this has already increased school attendance as the schools’ children no longer have to collect water in order to attend. In the long term this project will also help to improve the sanitation standards within the schools.
In May 2013 the Self Help Groups from the two local communities (Kakima B and Mbangoka Self Help Groups) began planning and requesting support in order to construct two school water tanks in their areas. With funds donated from the Boultbee Foundation, Just a Drop was able to support and guide our local implementing partner ASDF to mobilise the communities surrounding these two schools.
Meetings were held with the Self Help Groups and local communities regarding:
- the project goal and objectives
- the roles and responsibilities of the beneficiaries
- the communities’ contribution towards the project (local materials and volunteer labour from parents).
The project wasn’t without it’s challenges. The area is semi-arid with extreme rainfall variability. With no water in the unreliable existing tanks the volunteer parents had to walk a five hour round trip to the River Thwake, 9km away, to collect water needed for construction. When they were not able to walk the long distances they had to buy water from vendors or buy and transport it using donkeys to the project site themselves.
The tanks require minimal and importantly low-cost maintenance. This will ensure the continued long-term success and sustainability of this project. Maintenance will include:
- monitoring of the guttering system to ensure its effectiveness in draining harvested water into the storage tanks and repairing this when necessary
- replacing the lockable water taps where required
- washing the tanks before the onset of rains
The school management committee together with the Self Help Groups will be responsible for the maintenance of the water tanks through contributions made by the school’s Parent and Teachers Association (PTA).
Mavindini Primary School:
Not so long ago, the pupils of Mavindini Primary School were forced to carry water in jerry cans every morning as they went to school. This was a real challenge as, in order to make classes, they would have to wake up early in the morning to be in school by 6.30am.
The classes run until the evening and it is then, when it is dark, that most of the children would have to rush to nearby rivers to fetch water to carry to school the following day. This was very risky, especially for the girls, having to walk to the rivers in the evening, which were long distances from their homes.
However, this nightmare has been alleviated. The construction of the tank in the school compound ended in mid-November, just in time for the short rains. Three quarters of a tank were harvested in this time and now the pupils no longer have to carry water to school and come to school with more energy and more ability to concentrate in class.
The school and its community are very excited about this and are optimistic of a brighter and smoother future for these children as a result of the project.
Thavu Secondary School:
Every student was obliged to bring a three-litre jerry can full of water to school every day, meaning they had to walk for long distances with this heavy weight. This has since changed with the construction of the water tank in the school. It took the concerted efforts of Mba Ngoka Self Help Group and the support, guidance and supervision of Just a Drop and local partner ASDF to make this possible. The tank was completed just in time for the short rains and it was three quarters full by the end of the rains. This is enough to last the school till the next rain season in four months time.
Two students interviewed on a recent visit to the school exuded enthusiastic confidence that most of their problems would be solved by this development. 18 year old Jacinta Mumbua, who is a form three student at the school, is happy that drinking water will not be a problem anymore. “We will now have drinking water and some to even use for washing,” she says.
The deputy headmaster at Mavindini Primary School, Mr Kitisya Patrick, thinks that not only will this make life easier for the pupils, but it will also positively impact on their academic performance and increase hygiene levels too.
“…it is going to improve our pupils’ performance because they will have a conducive environment…water is now there in plenty,” said Mr Kitisya in an interview. “Since water was very far, it’s only on Mondays that our pupils were clean. By Wednesday and Thursday most of the pupils would be very dirty, especially in the dry periods!”
He also noted that the water which the pupils had hitherto brought to school was sometimes dirty, which put them at risk of water-related diseases, and that they would often fetch it at night, again putting them at risk of kidnap or rape. All of this will now end through them having sufficient water in the tank to see them through the dry period.
The community are so optimistic about the results of the project that the parents are considering converting the school into a boarding school. They feel that since water is one of the most important aspects of running a school and since they now have plenty, they could start a boarding school and accommodate pupils from far and wide.
The Deputy Headmaster said “Starting next year, we are planning on converting this school into a boarding school since we have plenty of water and, as you know, water should always be the first thing to consider.”
It is exciting to see communities reaping such benefits from our projects and taking such bold measures.
The most encouraging thing, however, is to see that the main beneficiaries of this project, the pupils, are reaping such great rewards as a result of the generosity of the Brooks Foundation.
18 year old John Mutinda Muthoka, a student from form four in Thavu Secondary School shares his sentiments. He had been especially upset by the fact that before the project their parents had had to bring water to school for them.
The students would make do with the little available water or go thirsty for a whole day. He feels that this may be to blame for their poor performances in class since “… you can’t concentrate when you are thirsty,” as he bluntly puts it.
“Many schools around here do not have reliable sources of water and parents are afraid of taking their children there. I hope that many students will come to our school and benefit from this water.”
The benefits of this water tank to the school, and indeed the whole community, are numerous:
- The students and the parents have been relieved of the demanding and excruciating burden of bringing heavy containers of water to school each and every day
- For the students, the physical strain caused by this is alleviated, they now have more energy and are able to concentrate more in class.
- The time that used to be spent on the long treks to the river and back every evening can now be directed towards homework and assignments.
- The parents can use this time to do house chores and engage in economic activities to raise school fees for their children.
This is a project that has without doubt benefitted a whole community. The gratitude of these students is evident in their smiles and on their faces. So impressed was John with the construction of the tank that he vowed to do well in his studies and join us in constructing tanks for needy societies! And we wish him, and indeed all of the students in the school, all the best.
Date of project: March 2014