Water for schools
In Chimoio Mozambique, as many as 9000 pupils attending 7 de Abril school will wake up each morning, grab their bag and head off for the day.
They won’t need to remember to take water with them or worry about having to jostle in a queue for the school toilet. They will know that they can wash their hands at any point in the day and, girls will feel confident that they can manage their period.
All this because 7 de Abril school now has a solar-powered water system, a network of tap stands, and 8 new latrine and shower blocks.
Since 2004 Village Water has funded water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) provision for 158 schools like 7 de Abril – over 84,000 students in all – with the 159th planned for 2022.
Why WASH for schools?
Catherine, a student at Mutwiwambwa School in Zambia describes what it was like without water in her school:
“We used to draw dirty water from a well which is almost one kilometre away from school. As a result pupils could not wash hands after using the toilet. During break time we had our snacks without having washed hands. It was not healthy at all. This contributed to many of us regularly suffering from diarrhoea and dysentery.”
250 million primary school-age children worldwide are failing to learn basic numeracy and literacy skills because they miss school for health reasons. According to UNICEF the world’s disease ‘burden’ is primarily due to poor access to safe water. (source)
Poor WASH in schools affects girls in particular, but especially when they start their period. A girl or woman without access to water, soap, and a toilet, whether at home, school, or work, will face great difficulties in managing menstruation effectively and with dignity.
But funding safe water and sanitation facilities in schools is just part of the solution. Once the infrastructure is completed, training and education begins.
Awareness raising and Girls’ Clubs
For millions of women and girls in developing nations menstruation does not feel ‘normal’ despite it naturally occurring throughout their lives.
Sunday, a boy at Namibwe basic school in Zambia, reported that when he heard that girls were going through menstruation he stopped accepting food from them because he thought it would make him sick.
Stigma and taboos of this kind are what menstrual hygiene training is all about. Confronting the myths and normalising open discussion are important as Mailiti, a teacher at Kamanya primary school in Zambia explains:
“I used to have difficulties discussing menstruation in classes because pupils were shy. Traditional norms discourage girls from openly discussing menstruation with men but after we had some training, I see girls are opening up.”
Village Water supports Girls’ Clubs, a safe and often fun environment to learn how to make washable sanitary towels and where girls are comfortable discussing a range of topics including the pitfalls and pressures of early marriage & sexual health.
Girls’ Clubs are very popular. They show 90% attendance in 7 de Abril school in Mozambique.
Student Miseria said that she decided to come to the group because she noticed girls talking about interesting topics such as not getting married early or the importance of finishing school in order to have a better future.
Claudia on the other hand joined because she noticed that other girls received notebooks and pens!
Making sure what we fund really is having the intended success is why Village Water keeps track every step of the way.
We document conditions before our intervention, construction of the system; from borehole to latrine blocks and we track health changes.
We usually see at least 60% drop in school absences due to preventable waterborne diseases.
Field staff continue to keep track for at least 5 years, checking pump efficiency & functionality. We hand over sampled water quality testing to the local councils.
They will continue delivering refresher hygiene sessions & assess health impacts on a sampled basis. Data collected throughout will help us measure impact and allow us to adjust our projects by experience.
We have big ambitions to bring safe water systems to whole regions, one district at a time.
To date we have reached over a million people!
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