Demesi Primary School in Kenya now has access to a new source of safe, clean water thanks to the completion of their rain tank, which has the ability to collect 50,000 liters of water. We installed new latrines for students, handwashing stations, and we trained students and staff on improved sanitation and hygiene practices. All of these components work together to unlock the opportunity for these students to live better, healthier lives. Here is the report from our implementing partner, The Water Project.
Construction for this 50,000-liter rain tank was successful!
Parents, staff, and students helped our artisans gather everything needed for construction. All the while, the school cooks prepared meals for the artisans, and the school provided accommodations for the artisans during their work. Local women and men helped our artisans with their manual labor, too.
The process officially began with our staff and school administration looking around the school compound to try and determine the best location for a new rain tank. This needed to be the best site with good, clean roofing to catch the rainwater. Then, we cleared the site: excavating the soil within the required measurements to make level ground for the tank foundation. The foundation was cast by laying hardcore on level ground and then reinforcing it using steel, concrete and waterproof cement. Both the drawing pipe as well as the washout pipe were affixed as the foundation was laid. The wall was built with ferro-cement techniques through 6 layers. The inner wall was plastered while rough casting was done on the outer part. Finally, the catchment area was dug, plastered, and a staircase installed. Dome construction could begin after the superstructure had been given enough time to settle. The manhole cover was fitted, inlet pipes were connected to the roof gutters, inlet screens, ventilation pipes (breathers) and overflow pipes were all done to standard.
The school was well prepared in terms of organizing for the locally available materials and with organizing the hardware drop-off and storage, thus causing no delays in terms of preparation. There were rains experienced on each afternoon, however, as early as 3:00 pm and thus work sometimes had to be stopped until the next day. This prompted the artisans to start working as early as 6:00 am so that by the time the rains came, they would have cleared or almost cleared of their planned work for the day.
Completion of this project at Demesi Primary has come as a real blessing, said the school staff. At first, it seemed an impossible mission for the parents to support the effort by providing the locally available materials since many are farmers who depend on putting all of their energy into their fields for a living. With encouragement from the field officer who was in charge, however, the parents and the school put in all of their effort and the dream of the rain tank and latrines came true. The pupils gave it their all too by fetching the water that was used for construction. On being asked why they were so enthusiastic about fetching the water, many pupils said it was the last time they would be fetching water into the school compound once the tank was completed, so their effort was important. The students’ gratitude was abundant.
Once finished, the tank was given 3 weeks to undergo complete curing before it was cleaned and handed over to Demesi Primary School through Head Teacher Ms. Edith Alusa, though we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our monitoring and maintenance program.
“The greatest change I have experienced in this school concerning the water shortage is the coming of this rain tank…This will help us a long way. Our pupils will save much time that they have been using to fetch water. Now, they will instead be able to use that time in their classrooms,” shared the school’s health club patron, teacher Mrs. Virginia Nekesa.
This project funded the installation of 6 new ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines, half for girls and half for boys. All of these new latrines have cement floors that are designed to be easy to use and clean. And with a rain tank right on school property, there should be enough water to keep them clean.
The 2 handwashing stations were delivered to the school and handed over to the student health club. These were placed outside of the girls’ and boys’ latrines to encourage handwashing after latrine use. Health club members teach other students how to properly wash their hands at the stations, make sure the stations are filled with water, and work to ensure that there is always soap or ash available.
Hygiene and sanitation training was scheduled with the help of the school principal and Head Teacher Ms. Edith Alusa, who together ensured that the training date would be convenient for students, staff, and parent representatives. Individual teachers helped by selecting students from each class to represent the others. The attendance was strong since the school already had an active student health club in place. 47 girls and 45 boys attended along with their health club patron, Mrs. Virginia Nekesa. The weather for the day was mild and therefore very conducive for an outdoor training venue. We covered a number of topics, including personal hygiene such as bathing, oral hygiene, and handwashing with soap as a barrier from germs; and operation and maintenance of the new facilities, with each person understanding their role for long-lasting clean water and good health. The reinforced student health club will be greatly involved in project management and will be responsible for encouraging good health and hygiene practices amongst their peers, teachers, and the larger community.
The participation of the attendees was overwhelming. At first, students were a bit reserved not knowing what to expect during the training. After we explained that it would be an open class forum where every answer would be accepted and the learning conditions would be different from their normal class lessons, they warmed up to the exercise. Asking and answering questions became fun throughout the training. The facilitator, Karen Maruti, had carried a packet of sweets that she was awarding to anyone who answered questions. This caused a lot of attention amongst everyone as they wanted to partake in the rare gift of a sweet. All attendees were able to take part fully. The training concepts were adopted immediately as after the training everyone wanted to try out their handwashing skills on the new handwashing stations.
At the beginning when it was time for the school health club patron, Mrs. Nekesa, to introduce herself to the group, she started by saying she was so happy that we had taken time to train the school on health and hygiene issues. She added that the afternoon classes were always unbearable, especially to her being pregnant, because many pupils’ personal hygiene was wanting and it made it difficult to focus in their shared environment. At this point, some of the pupils felt embarrassed, but the facilitator encouraged everyone that after the training they would not just better understand and appreciate good health and hygiene practices, but they would be more equipped to uphold them as well.
During the dental hygiene lesson, the facilitator took the participants through the list of dental diseases, including their causes and their prevention. Demonstrations on the proper way of brushing teeth and storage of the toothpaste also took center stage with the pupils being encouraged to adopt the locally available materials such as chewing sticks (instead of floss) and ash (instead of toothpaste) for strong teeth.
“All along I have been brushing my teeth and washing my hands though not at all times, and I never knew I have been doing it the wrong way. Today I have learned the correct way of doing them both and will practice this. As pupils, we also didn’t know that fighting for water at the drawing point of the tank could cause injuries, let alone lead to breaking the tap. We will be able to take care of the tank having received this training,” Violet proudly stated, the student who was voted into the Secretary role of the student health club.