Outside the administration block at Loborom Primary School, located 50km from Pader Town in northern Uganda, a group of teachers sit under a tree, sharing a snack of groundnuts as they chat or mark exercise books. Groups of children run around the school compound, enjoying the mid-morning break from lessons.
A new cement water tank stands out among the schools old buildings, some of which are on the verge of collapse. The tank was constructed in June 2012 by AMREF with funding from the Dutch Government under Dutch WASH Alliance in a project that seeks to improve the health and hygiene of school children through provision of safe and clean water. The five-year project runs from 2011 to 2015.
The goal of the project is to reduce poverty and improve health, environmental and economic conditions by empowering people and increasing sustainable access to and use of safe water and sanitation services, particularly by women and marginalised groups.
In total, the ferro cement rain water harvesting tank is used by 210 male and 213 female pupils respectively while the borehole serves 277 other community (155 females and 122 males) members in 55 households.
The school has a borehole which, though operational, is not enough to serve the requirements of the pupils and the neighbouring community as well. Head teacher Mr Odongo Mark George expresses his joy at the difference that the new water tank has made:
“It was difficult for everyone to access water. The queues at the borehole were very long. The community members from the nearby trading centre used to walk 3km to collect unclean water from a swamp. The new water tank has made such a big difference for everyone. It is not only the pupils who use the water: the teaching staff, support staff and the community surrounding the school use this water. More than 1,000 people draw water from this tank.”
He continues: “We are grateful to AMREF for bringing this facility to our school. Our pupils now don’t waste time queuing at the borehole. We used to see a lot of water going wasted during the rainy season since we could not store it for use during the dry season. Now we have water throughout the year. AMREF has saved us from experiencing water shortages.
“We use the water in the tank for drinking, cooking, bathing and cleaning. The classrooms and the school in general are clean. Our female students no longer stay away from school during their monthly period because there is enough water for them to maintain hygiene. Pupils do not fall ill with skin infections and other water-borne diseases, and all this has helped to improve school attendance,” says Mr Odongo.
Mrs Paskolina Obote is a member of the village health team responsibility for the Loborom tank. When villagers came to fetch water from the tank, she teaches them about sanitation and good hygiene practices. AMREF checks the water regularly to ensure that it is free from contamination and safe for drinking.
Nevertheless, the school does not have enough classrooms and has only one 10-stance VIP latrine for the school’s entire population. The latrines are almost full. To improve hygiene and sanitation, the school needs hand-washing facilities and a regular means to provide sanitary towels for girls.