Making Schools a Safe Haven for Learning: Part 1

Have you ever heard an American kid complain about going to school?  For many U.S. students, when they compare the work they have to do in school with the comforts of home, it’s easy to see their preference.  But in rural Kenyan communities in extreme poverty, children often don’t have the food or safe water they need at home—so school-based water and sanitation projects and meal provision make a big impact in creating a healthy, productive environment where children can learn effectively.  On my recent trip to Nyanza Province in Kenya, I visited several schools that have participated in clean water and sanitation development with Episcopal Relief & Development and our partner, Anglican Development Services of Nyanza (ADS).  The projects are joint efforts, with ADS purchasing water tanks at a quantity discount and schools contributing other construction materials such as sand and gutters. 

At Wachara Secondary School, classes used to be interrupted daily so that the students could go down to the stream to bring back water, which would then be boiled to make it safe for drinking.  To capture rainwater, a 10-cubic-meter PVC tank with a tap was installed and connected to gutters from the school roof.   A chlorine solution is added to make the water safe for drinking.  The students completed participatory hygiene and sanitation training to ensure they adopt good hand washing and other habits.  Now the school has sufficient water to provide breakfast and lunch for the 160 students; they also follow a normal class schedule without the disruptions for water collection. 

“Just this basic system to collect rainwater has helped us transform the situation here,” explained Sarah Obewa, the school’s principal. “The students are healthier since they can wash their hands, and the regular meals help them concentrate throughout the day.  Attendance is good, as school is now an appealing place.” 

Dawn Murdock is the Resource Mobilization Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development.

Photo: An Anglican Development Services engineer
(right) and a student demonstrate the new water
catchment system at Wachara School.