Mwikhupo Project Complete

April 5, 2021
Mwikhupo 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 75,000 liters of water! We 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 work together to unlock the opportunity for these students to live better, healthier lives.

Here is the completion report from our implementing partner, The Water Project:

“Having safe water at school throughout the day will help reduce the rate of absenteeism due to waterborne diseases,” said pupil Thomas. “Since we will have water within our school compound, I will convert the time used to go and get water from the well into study time, and this will help me improve my performance.”

Teachers were just as excited as the students about the new rain tank on campus.

“This will go a long way in aiding our school’s improvement, both in terms of the syllabus completion and its physical appearance. I believe now, getting clean water will not be a challenge and, as a result, we expect to get fewer health issues and fewer absentees. The school’s average grade will automatically improve,” said teacher Andrew Mayende. “With the tank, we hope to use the water to ensure that this school looks better and also get gets enough time to cover the syllabus. Movement in and out of the school in search of water will also be minimized.”

How We Go From Ground to Rain Tank
Construction for this 75,000-liter rain tank 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. 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 determine the best location for a new rain tank. 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 tank foundation. We cast the foundation by laying big stones on the level ground and reinforcing them using steel wire, concrete, and waterproof cement. We affixed both the drawing pipe and the drainage pipe 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 foundation’s 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 tank, we cast one central and four support pillars to ensure the dome does not cave in once cemented. Meanwhile, we plastered the inner wall while roughcasting the outer walls. We dug and plastered the access area to the tap outside of the tank, where we also installed a short staircase. In front of the access area, we constructed a soak pit where spilled water can drain from the access area through the ground. The pit helps to keep the tap area dry and tidy.

Dome construction could begin after the tank walls settled. We attached a dome skeleton of rebar, wire mesh, and sugar sacks to the tank walls before cementing and plastering it using similar techniques as the wall construction. We included a small manhole cover into the dome to allow access for future cleanings and water treatments. We propped long wooden poles (about 75 of them!) inside the tank to support the dome while it cured. Then it was down to the finishing touches: fitting a lockable cover over the tap area, affixing the gutters to the roof and tank, and setting an overflow pipe in place at the edge of the dome for when the tank reaches capacity. Once finished, we gave the rain tank three to four weeks to undergo complete curing. Finally, we removed the interior support poles and dome sugar sacks and cleaned the tank.

We officially handed over the rain tank to the school directly following the training. Students and staff celebrated the presence of clean water on campus. The event was a great 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.

VIP Latrines
This project funded the installation of 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 a rain tank right on school property, there should be enough water to keep them clean.

Handwashing Stations
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.

New Knowledge
Hygiene and sanitation training was scheduled with the principal’s help, who ensured that the training date would be convenient for the school. When the training day arrived, facilitators Betty Muhongo and Stella Inganji deployed to the site. 20 people attended the training, which we held under some trees within the school compound. Outside, there was enough space for demonstrations while adhering to physical distancing protocols.

We focused on COVID-19 prevention, transmission, and symptoms while also covering several other topics. These included personal hygiene such as bathing, oral hygiene, the ten steps of handwashing; environmental hygiene; child rights, operation and maintenance of the rain tank, latrines, 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 greatly 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 handwashing demonstration was memorable as the participants were all excited to take part in the exercise. Leadership was also an exciting session as the pupils appointed one girl they said was the best leader. The group proposed this one student for all three of the health club’s leadership positions of chair, secretary, and treasurer. In the end, she was elected Chair.

“I have not been washing my hands as recommended. With the knowledge acquired, I will be the ambassador of change to the rest of the pupils. This Monday, we shall demonstrate handwashing with the entire school population,” said student Christopher, the club’s elected Secretary.

“Having learned new hygiene and sanitation practices, I am going to be a changed person, and this will lead to better performance in my academics,” noted student Elizabeth, the club’s elected Treasurer. “Personally, I have lost a lot due to missing class lessons [during the national school shut down because of the pandemic]. I was supposed to be in Class Seven this year, but now I am forced to repeat Class Six. This is a great setback to my progress. Also, I missed attending my classes lessons and the interaction with my friends at school. Being back at school, I am really happy, and I hope all the students and teachers will adhere to the rules and regulations put in place by the Ministry of Health so that we succeed in fighting this monster disease. Having learned how to prevent the spread of the disease, it’s now our duty to put in practice what we have been taught and observe all the guidelines put in place to curb the spread of the virus. I will teach other pupils how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including just waving as a form of greeting instead of contact greetings.”

When an issue arises concerning the water project, the students and teachers are equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure the water point works appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact our field officers’ team 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!

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