School water tank projects quench learners', families' thirst

Pupils at Lema Primary School in Machakos County drinking water from the donated tank during their lunch break. [Rose Mukonyo, Standard]

On a normal day, Grade 7 pupil Jane Mutheu wakes up as early as 4am. While she is a diligent pupil, she doesn’t wake up this early to study but rather to fetch water for her sickly mother before heading to school with water in a five-litre jerrican.   

“Everyone is required to come with water because we normally have lunch here in school, so I make sure that after fetching some for my family, I also fetch another jerrican to bring to school,” Jane, who is a pupil at Kithiani Primary School says. 

Sometimes she comes to school late because her home is far from the school, some days the water hole may be overcrowded with people and before she gets her turn, it is already daybreak. 

The Mwala area in Machakos County is known to be a water-stressed area. Once in a while, the area receives less than 4 inches of rainfall. With the shortfall of rain comes a lot of challenges, especially for school-going children who are forced to wake up early to fetch water in a river or a water hole far away from home and then walk up to 3 kilometres to school. 

For the pupils of Kithiani school, the story is changing for the better because the school now has a 10,000-litre water tank.  

According to Mrs Kyalo, one of the teachers in Kithiani school, water has transformed the livelihoods of both the students and the community around the school. This is because the students not only stop coming to school with water, but their parents can also visit the school and get clean drinking water. 

“We have had many water-related challenges but now things are better, our pupils never used to wash their hands even with the knowledge of the many diseases caused by lack of proper hygiene,” says Mrs Kyalo. 

She also explains that girls are now able to stay in school during their menstrual period, as some of them would go home to clean themselves up, but now that the school has water, they can do it and get back to class. This has not only improved their performance in school, it has also boosted their confidence and self-esteem.  

The tank was donated to the school towards the end of last year by Future Investment Initiatives in conjunction with Kenya Connect, a local non-profit organisation in the area. Out of 63 schools that partner with 26 have benefitted by getting these tanks with the help of Future Investment Initiatives. 

According to Faith Doucette, the Partnerships and Mentorship Director at Kenya Connect, with more funding, the plan is to have all the partner schools get at least one tank with an extra one in schools with larger populations or those in worst drought-hit areas. 

Peter Ndiku, the school headteacher says that the water tank has alleviated the water shortage in the Kithiiani area because the football clubs in the community who use the school’s playground can drink the water during their practice days.  

“We are sure this will go a long way because now we are no longer dealing with water-related diseases,” says the headteacher.

“Our learners would frequently fall ill to the point of getting admitted to hospital because they would consume dirty water at home then bring the same water to school, but now the water from the tank is being used in the school feeding programme and has made our work easier,” Mr Ndiku says. 

This is the same for pupils and parents of Lema Primary School who also have a new water tank. 

Before this, Mary Syombua the school cook would carry an average of ten 20-litre jerricans of water for a distance of 2 kilometres from the school to ensure she has enough water for cooking. 

“I would not trust the water the students were bringing to school that is why I asked the school to provide me with money so I could fetch the water from a borehole, where each jerrican cost at least Sh20,” Mary says. 

This meant she would take many hours before she could settle down to cook the lunch and at the same time, pupils would keep on coming to the kitchen to ask for some water for drinking. 

Catherine Muasya, one of the parents of the school is happy that the school gives her family access to clean water. 

“The school allows us to get water here at no fee, and I am sure of the safety of the water I give my children at home and what they take here at school, and now I am no longer worried about water-borne diseases like before.” 

She explains that the community around the school can get the water at restricted hours, so as not to disrupt learning. 

“Innovative gardening practices require a lot of water and our CBC pupils are no longer overburdened to bring water to sustain these projects,” says Lawrence Kyeneka, Lema Primary School deputy headteacher.