In 2017, The Rotary Club of Sleaford Kesteven kindly supported the charity Village Water with a grant of £2,300 from the club and this was doubled on the ‘Big Give’ – through the national Rotary movement. The wonderful donation enabled the charity to transform Sinungu Basic School in Zambia. It is large by rural standards with 502 pupils attending from 33 surrounding villages. When first visited, there was no access to safe water with pupils and teachers relying on an unprotected well, situated 500 metres away from the school at the edge of a flood plain. During the rainy season, the well would fill with ground water and this was particularly concerning as the school and surrounding communities were still practicing open defecation and ground water run-off containing pollutants was able to enter the well.
A 17 year old a pupil at the school, said how this had affected the school: ’Since 2006, our source of drinking water has been an unprotected well. The water from the well was not safe and clean due to the fact that it is submerged with contaminated water from the flood plain during the rainy season. The water becomes very dirty and small worms are usually noticed. As a result, waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea in both pupils and teachers is experienced. This tends to increase the absentee rate among pupils.’
Hygiene & Sanitation Promotion Field staff from the charity assessed the school for general cleanliness of the classrooms, toilets and the school grounds, and checked the number and use of sanitation facilities. The school surroundings were fairly clean and they and they already had six latrines and 4 handwashing stations however these were very dirty, and the ‘pit’ of the latrine wasn’t covered. This was unhygienic and can make the toilets very smelly and attract flies, this could be why open defecation was still being practiced. Hygiene and sanitation training promotion sessions were held in May 2017, and were attended by all teachers and pupils and were also open to surrounding community members. The training covered:
- Prevention of disease through good hygiene and sanitation facilities
- Demonstrations on how to build no cost sanitation facilities
- Menstrual hygiene education sessions, for boys and girls (grade 4 and above)
The training was well received, particularly menstrual hygiene management (MHM), which had never been addressed at the school before. The staff knew there was a need to break down the stigma surrounding menstruation as it was affecting attendance but they didn’t know how to approach it.
Head Teacher Mr Namakando Wamulume said: ‘Water and sanitation has a very big impact on our activities as a school, that lack of safe source of water makes us take a lot of time working on our water to make it fit for consumption. We’re grateful for the lessons that have been taught on hygiene and sanitation as we have been reminded and revived to put all required facilities to ensure total sanitation and thus improve our health. MHM is one area we have appreciated as we never knew how to implement it in school.’
The new well was drilled in October 2017, the water table was found at 10 metres but the well was rota jetted to a depth of 27 metres to future proof it against global warming and changing water levels. The borehole is fitted with an India Mark II handpump, which is working perfectly, it fills a 20Lit container in 52 strokes and produces water after just 1 stroke. The water quality tests were good and there was no smell produced from the water. The school have started a water committee, they received pump maintenance training and a toolkit. They have been reminded to start a maintenance fund to ensure they are able to fund any future repairs that may be needed. As the local community are also using the water it has been suggested that a small fee is collected and saved for this.
‘We’re grateful for your help to our school, it wasn’t easy for us to operate without a source of clean water,” said the Headmaster. “The open well was situated far down and pupils would wander around the school with no water. Now that the hand pump is installed, water is readily available, we can just say thank you Village Water for your help. Diseases have reduced and the attendance is improving.”
During each visit the local team carried out surveys to check on school cleanliness, hygiene practices, the availability of sanitation facilities and the impact these were having on the pupil’s health. During the last visit field staff reported that school cleanliness had improved in every area. We were also pleased to see that the six latrines had been cleaned and now had lids making them much more hygienic. Field staff will continue to monitor the changes at the school and where needed reinforce hygiene and sanitation messages.