Emakhwale Primary School in Kenya now has access to a new source of safe, clean water thanks to the completion of their two new rain tanks! We also installed new latrines and handwashing stations for students, and we trained the school on improved sanitation and hygiene practices, including COVID-19 prevention. These components will unlock the opportunity for these students to live better, healthier lives. Here is an update from our implementing partner, The Water Project (TWP):
Now that Umil, 12, no longer has to leave school to collect water during the school day, she has free time. "I will be going to read in the library during free time to improve on my studies and become a lawyer as [I] had planned."
Teachers were just as excited as the students about the new rain tank on campus.
"As the health teacher, I have all the reasons to smile, because you cannot separate clean water from living a healthy life. This will help me in ensuring the school is healthy by taking care of sanitation facilities in terms of cleanliness and ensuring that we have filled the handwashing facilities always," said teacher Musa Mukoyo, 43.
How We Go From Ground to Rain Tank
Construction of these two 75,000-liter rain tanks was successful! Parents, staff, and students helped our artisans gather everything needed for construction. The school's kitchen staff and a few parents helped provide meals for the artisans, while the school provided the artisans' accommodations. Locals helped our artisans with their manual labor, too.
The process officially began with our staff and school administration looking around the school compound to determine the best location for the new rain tanks. This needed to be the best site with enough land and a nearby building with good, clean roofing to catch the rainwater.
Then, we cleared the site by excavating the soil to make level ground for the tanks' foundations. We cast the foundations by laying big stones on the level ground and reinforcing them using steel wire, concrete, and waterproof cement. We affixed both the drawing pipes and the drainage pipes as we laid the foundation.
Next, we formed the walls using a skeleton of rebar and wire mesh with sugar sacks temporarily tied to the outside as backing. We attached this to the foundations' edges so that the work team could start the Ferro-cementing process. They began layering the walls with cement, alternating with the inner and outer side until six cement layers were in place. (The sugar sacks are removed once the interior receives its first two layers of cement.)
Inside the tanks, we cast one central and four support pillars to ensure the domes do not cave in once cemented. Meanwhile, we plastered the inner walls while roughcasting the outer walls. We dug and plastered the access areas to the taps outside the tanks, installing short staircases. In front of the access areas, we constructed soak pits where spilled water can drain from the access area through the ground. These pits help to keep the tap areas dry and tidy.
Dome construction could begin after the tank walls settled. We attached dome skeletons of rebar, wire mesh, and sugar sacks to the tank walls before cementing and plastering them using similar techniques as the wall construction. We included small manhole covers into the domes to allow access for future cleanings and water treatments.
We propped long wooden poles (about 75 of them each!) inside the tanks to support the domes while they cured. Then it was down to the finishing touches: fitting lockable covers over the tap areas, affixing the gutters to the roof and tanks, and setting overflow pipes in place at the edge of the domes for when the tanks reach capacity.
Once finished curing, we removed the interior support poles and dome sugar sacks and cleaned the tanks.
We officially handed over the rain tanks to the school. Students and staff celebrated the presence of clean water on campus. The event was an excellent chance for us to acknowledge the school administration and students as the primary parties entrusted with the tools we have given and remind them of our continued support as they develop. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day, flowing in all directions.
The students were very happy to have been given two tanks at their school and demonstrated their joy by celebrating at the water point. The sanitation teacher, Mr. Mukoyo, and the field officer led the students in the tank dedication.
This project funded six new ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines, three for the girls and three for the boys. These new latrines have cement floors designed to be easy to use and clean, locking doors for safety and privacy, and vents designed to keep air flowing up and out through the roof. With two rain tanks right on school property, there should be enough water to keep them clean.
We scheduled hygiene and sanitation training with the school's staff, who ensured that the training date would be convenient for pupils and teachers. When the training day arrived, the facilitators, Adelaide, Elvine, and Protus deployed to the site to lead the event. Fifteen (15) students and teachers attended the training, which we held in a spacious classroom.
We focused on COVID-19 prevention, transmission, and symptoms while also covering several other topics. These included personal hygiene such as bathing, oral hygiene, and the ten steps of handwashing; environmental hygiene; child rights; operation and maintenance of the rain tank, latrines, and handwashing stations; and leadership and governance. During the latter, the students elected their peers to lead their newly formed student health club.
The club will be significantly involved in the water, sanitation, and hygiene project management at school. It will encourage good health and hygiene practices amongst their peers, teachers, and the larger community.
We involved stretches, dances, and physical activities between each topic to keep the pupils' energy up and their minds active. By the end of the training, each pupil understood their role in sustaining clean water and good health within their school community.
The two handwashing stations were set up during training 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 will teach other students how to wash their hands at the stations properly, make sure the stations are filled with water, and ensure that there is always a cleaning agent such as soap or ash available.
During the session on COVID-19, the trainer asked participants to name some symptoms of COVID-19. Angela, a student, said one symptom was severe hunger. The students were all amused and told her it was not a symptom of COVID-19.
And when asked about myths that they have heard about COVID-19, one of the students said that COVID-19 only affects the elderly. The trainer explained to them that the disease affects everyone and explained the importance of following the measures put in place by the Ministry of Health.
"The training was valuable because I have learned new things about cleanliness and will teach other students," said Freza, 15.
"I was able to learn new COVID-19 measures and I will apply the measures to avoid getting the disease," said Hellen, age 12 and member of the Child Health Club.
We asked Hellen what it was like to be at home for most of the last year due to Kenya's national coronavirus-related school closures and what it has been like coming back to school.
"I felt bad. I lost a lot of time at home just sitting without studying. I missed a lot [of] my classmates. I missed the Mathematics lessons and even the school."
Now that she is back to school, she said, "I feel so good being back in school because [I] am able to continue with my studies."
When an issue arises concerning the rain tanks, the students and teachers are equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure the water points work appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact our field officers to assist them. Also, we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our ongoing monitoring and maintenance program.
Thank you for making all of this possible!