I’ve seen tears of joy and I’ve seen tears of sorrow. This time, it’s heartwarming to see years of disbelief flowing from a student whose life has just been changed by the presence of clean water at her school.
A New Chapter at Sweetwaters Secondary School
Karen Kavete, Anna Provenzano & Erinn Wright
This is the story of the many girls at Sweetwaters Secondary School who could not contain their joy as the Well Aware drill hit water for the first time. The entire school was overwhelmed with incredulity of what the future could now hold for them. It was a spectacular moment for both teachers and students as the new water marked the end of an era filled with water challenges.
For a long time, Sweetwaters Secondary School fully depended on the community for their consumable water. The school was only able to retrieve water from the community tank when it overflowed, despite its close proximity to the school itself. But, when water was not in excess and the tanks did not overflow, the students had no water to rely on.
The unreliability of clean drinking water got to be too much for the Principal, Madam Margaret, so she opted to start buying water from the county, resulting in exorbitant costs for the school, having to purchase it every few days.
Due to the high costs, hygiene was not a luxury the girls could afford as the water had to be rationed to maximize how long it lasted. Sometimes, they could only get two jugs (3ltr) per day per person to be used for both bathing and washing clothes, a student, Faith (pictured on the right), informed us.
The dire need for water resulted in a cat and mouse game between the teachers and students. Since the tanks were tightly padlocked to safeguard the precious water, students would sneak out of class during lessons and pull up the padlock to get a little water. Sometimes, if the tanks had a leak, students would leave their buckets to collect the droplets dripping from the spoilt taps.
This is a skill the students have mastered so well that they ensured they’re rarely caught and never need to break the locks. In the end, though they collected some water this way, it was never enough to supplement their already small rations.
In addition to the challenges with hygiene and drinking, the lack of reliable clean water also affected nutrition and food. The school cook shared that so many school improvement projects had been proposed, only to be delayed or canceled because of the lack of water. Major projects included a greenhouse, biogas and dairy cows. So, when we explained our clean water solution for the school and the plans for distribution, he was overjoyed and immediately started making plans to revive the previously planned major projects. Now, these projects can finally be put into action, allowing for more food production and increased health among the staff and students.
With a new well now drilled and in the process of being fully implemented, the students at Sweetwaters Secondary School will no longer have to worry about where their clean water will come from, will not have to ration water, and will no longer have to pay for water. This project will enable them to not only stay in school, but stay healthy, maintain hygiene, and focus on their studies.
“It was a dream come true. The entire community of Sweetwaters girls is truly grateful. This is a great milestone in the history of the school. Thanks so much to our donors, Well Aware, and Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The girls will now concentrate on the studies which translates to improved performance. It is a new chapter in the history of the school hence the joy expressed by the girls.” - Margaret Wanjiru, Principal