How clean water is making better students in Zimbabwe

With peak hunger season approaching in Southern Africa, many rural communities are once again feeling the strain.

In rural Zimbabwe alone, it’s forecast that 1.1 million will be food insecure between January and March 2018.

But one community is bucking the trend, having reaped the rewards of a Red Cross community resilience project.

Brain food

A nutritious bowl of porridge is something the pupils at Mabhiza School enjoy every morning – but just six months ago this wasn’t possible.

The school in Chipinge – which teaches more than 1,600 children – had no clean water source until July last year.

Children as young as four had to cross a busy main road to fetch buckets of water from a well. Dirty water which would often leave them ill.

The school’s head teacher, Rita Makiwabeni, explained: “Before the borehole was repaired about 60 children would go home sick a day with illnesses like diarrhoea and dysentery.

“We also used to worry about them crossing the road, as it’s so dangerous.

“But now thanks to the Red Cross we have as much clean water as we need to drink. We also have water we can use to wash our hands and clean the toilets.

“Because of clean water we can now make the children a bowl of porridge. This is vital in helping them to concentrate and learn, as so many only receive one meal a day at home.”

Access to clean water

The school’s borehole has been rehabilitated as part of a British Red Cross community resilience project, part-funded by People’s Postcode Lottery.

The project aims to better prepare rural communities to withstand and recover from cyclical disasters and crises.

Improving access to clean water sources is part of the five -year programme which aims to help 25,000 people.

Now, the impact of the first clean water source in 11 years is being felt throughout the school – from better grades to teacher recruitment.

Now, thanks to the Zimbabwe Red Cross, the school’s borehole has been repaired and children are healthier.

Rita said: “We used to find it difficult to recruit teachers and many would spend $15 dollars a month of their own money to pay people to fetch water from the well for their pupils.

“But now many teachers apply to work here and thanks to the Red Cross the children’s pass rate has gone up. Children are no longer absent from school or running off to fetch water when they should be in lessons.”

The British Red Cross continues to work to improve the resilience of communities like Chipinge.

Find out more about our work on water and sanitation in Zimbabwe.