Water pumps help pupils get to school in remote communities
Amie Amara is a bright girl. At 16 years of age, she only has two more years before she can take the university entrance exams.
Three years ago, her family moved to Luawah Chiefdom in Kailahun district from neighboring Guinea. Kailahun is the eastern-most district of Sierra Leone, approximately 412 kilometers from the capital, Freetown.
Back then in Guinea, Amara was a grade-A schoolgirl.
In Kailahun, access to pure water was a serious constraint. Life wasn’t as easy as it once was for Amara.
The only safe source of water close to her community broke down few months before they moved to Luawah and it was in need of urgent repair.
“When we came to Luawah a few years ago, the pump wasn’t working,” she said. “I had to wake up every 5:00 am and walk a distance of about 2.4 kilometres to fetch water.”
If she didn’t go the stream early, she had to wait for another half hour - ruining her chances of going to school early or coming home with contaminated water. This affected her performance in school. Besides, having to walk kilometers of forested terrain – which she feared was infested with evil spirits – caused her great distress.
Being the eldest and only girl child in her family, she was in charge of the many house chores.
Altogether, Amara had to walk more than 30 kilometres each week to the stream and school. Amara’s constraint with water is not different from the other pupils and residents in Lauwah chiefdom.
In the early hours of last Thursday, however, we met her and dozens of other pupils fetching water from a newly refurbished hand pumps in Lauwah community, thanks to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with support from the Government and People of Japan.
“I no longer have to wake up at 5 am to fetch water. That’s my house.” She pointed to a red mud house about 100 yards from the newly rehabilitated hand pump.
Through the project “Strengthening Access to Health Care and Community-led Development”, UNDP with support from the Government and people of Japan refurbished 25 similar hand pumps in four chiefdoms in Kailahun district – easing constraints to Amara, and to other pupils like her.
Now, “the hand pumps have not only solved the issues of distance and access but also our children can now get to school very early,” says Mariatu Jalloh, a mother of three.
“Since this tap was refurbished, I’ve never missed the first lesson as was the case before.” Amara happily informs us.
She is now buoyant, confident that she is set to return to the A status again in this academic year.