Water Harvesting and Management for Improved Learning in Kenyan Schools
Water is life, so goes the saying. Yet this resource is quite scarce and its impact far-reaching.
30 schools located in 8 arid and semi arid districts in Kenya are doing a lot with the little water they can access. Faced with the problem of regular absenteeism due to illnesses caused by poor health, sanitation and hygiene practises, these schools embraced a Healthy Learning programme with help from the Ministry of Education, VVOB and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).
Iriuko Primary School is one such school. The school has established a kitchen garden for vegetable growing. Other projects in the school include dairy cattle and rabbit keeping, tree growing and rain water harvesting. The school is located in a relatively dry area and frequently experiences water shortages. This is what led the school to consider the potential for rain water harvesting for improved agriculture and learning.
Many other Healthy Learning schools are actively involved in rain water harvesting hence ensuring they have safe water for pupils use while in school.
Educational messages on the water tanks commonly referred to as ‘Talking Walls’ assist pupils in learning when they are out of class.
In Samburu Central District, Sirata Oirobi Primary School is harvesting rainwater through roof catchment. The school acquired four 10,000lt water tanks thanks to the Healthy Learning Programme and other partners. According to the head teacher, this has saved the school 21,000/- (€ 210) normally spent purchasing 30,000lts of water each month from the local town council. This money is channelled back to the upkeep of the boarding pupils.
Another school in eastern province is constructing an underground water reservoir. The project is expected to cost Ksh 400,000/- (€ 4,000). Mr Benjamin Titus, the school headteacher is confident the benefits will outweigh the costs incurred. The school plans to grow vegetables for consumption by the pupils during school days. The surplus will be sold for income generation to the school.
Having gone to great lengths to access the precious resource, the schools are equally trying to conserve it.
Kathiani Primary School in Kathiani District has converted an old classroom labelling it the water house which is always locked. This old classroom houses water tanks used for roof catchment rain water harvesting. Use of the water by pupils is always monitored.
Most schools have also improvised hand washing facilities for both the pupils and teachers. The facilities, commonly known as leaky tins are erected next to toilets, classrooms and school kitchens ensuring pupils wash their hands when necessary and as recommended. This practice has generally improved the hygiene of the pupils and teachers.
Leaky tins are improvised containers with a small hole at the bottom/top to allow for a restricted flow of water ensuring as little water is used as possible. Waste water from the leaky tins is directed into kitchen gardens, flower beds and at times trees are planted underneath ensuring their survival during dry periods.
Drought resistant crops
There is a growing emphasis for Healthy Learning schools to grow drought tolerant crops that utilize less water. The schools have been in close consultation with agricultural officers who provide input on the type of crops that will survive in the areas where the schools are located. Sorghum, millet, cowpeas, pigeon peas, sweet potatoes and fruit trees such as grafted mangoes are some of the crops being grown. The schools have also established woodlots and some have acquired energy saving stoves that utilize very little firewood while producing less smoke. In Primary Boys Boarding school located in Kajiado Central District, the amount of money spent on firewood reduced by half from Ksh 72,000/- (€ 720)every term to Ksh 36,000/- (€ 360) upon installation and use of the energy saving stoves.
All the Healthy Learning schools are targeting to improve the school meals programme thereby ensuring the pupils receive a balanced diet necessary for good health. The produce harvested will not only supplement the school meals program, but also earn the school income that is channelled back to improvement of learning conditions. Furthermore the schools always involve the entire school community in their projects including the pupils thereby ensuring they learn life skills that might come in handy in future.
Spill over effect to homes
Many parents having witnessed the changes in the schools in the face of adverse weather conditions are adopting some of the practises in schools. Most of them continue to use the schools as learning centres and having witnessed change, are already craving for it in their own homes.