At first sight of Standard Primary School in Kihanda, Kanungu District, my heart was torn at the imagination of the struggles young children have to go through to be at school every day and the limitations these struggles can have on their creativity and academic achievements.
Classrooms made from makeshift materials, dangerous materials around like nails and hammers, no fencing and lack of proper hygiene to prevent from diseases. My immediate thought was to have a word with the headteacher to get to know what change InPact could assist in to ease the lives of these children.
Mr. Mugisha expressed to us that the biggest challenge they had was access to running water. He further explained that this meant the children had to trek for two hours daily to a stream, shared between the community and other animals, to fetch water for the school as a mandatory part of their timetable. However, what was initially well intended for the good of the students did more harm than good as subsequently, the performance of the pupils dropped by 50%.
Samantha, an 11-year-old girl filled with a great amount of enthusiasm and eagerness for life approached me with the natural excitement for any new face around town to tell me about her new science project about sanitation. She told me all about how she was ready to help her 5-year-old younger brother who was suffering from diahorrea for the past couple of weeks by washing his hands with soap.
Fortunately, InPact was carrying out Sanitation and Hygiene activations around Kirima subcounty and Standard Primary school was one of the main locations. During the handwashing demonstrations, Samantha volunteered to be a wash ambassador for her peers and was participating by actively asking and answering questions. Later the students watched as Jackson.
InPact’s WASH project manager, demonstrated how to build and tippy taps. As I was taking pictures of the activation, Samantha tapped me and said, “I want to build this at my home and at my grandmother’s home because we forget to wash our hands after using the toilet, and that is why my brother is always sick.” I was intrigued by her passion; however, I was hurt at the fact that her and her family were not able to afford to build a $2 tippy tap and immediately offered to sponsor this project.
Following our experience at this school and learning about the struggles faced by these children, InPact fundraised money to donate a 5000 litre water tank that can assist to solve the water challenges and prevent the children from trekking every day to collect water and miss over 10 hours of class time a week that affects their concentration and performance. Fortunately, National Water and Sewerage Corporation Uganda offered to sponsor the purchase of the rain-harvesting water tank that has changed the lives of these children.
When I returned to deliver the tank, I was immediately met by Samantha, excited to share with me her success in building two tippy taps at her home and teaching her neighbours and friends about proper handwashing, hygiene and the benefits of tippy taps. She also shared that her classmates have made it routine to wash their hands with soap after using the toilet and as the WASH Ambassador, she makes sure everyone, including her teachers, washes their hands before having a meal.
It is amazing what you can learn from a simple conversation and the impact that $2 can have on the health and wellbeing of an entire family. Samantha’s ability to share what she learned from a 10-minute demonstration about hygiene and sanitation is hope that there is a way to solve the growing health issues in Uganda.