|© UNICEF DR Congo/2008/Brandful|
|A pupil uses piped rain water for hand washing after a visit to the school latrine. UNICEF works with school committees to construct simple water storage facilities to promote better hygiene practices among pupils.|
By Joyce Brandful
MONGA FULA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 17 December 2008 – Kiboko Primary school was built in the 1950s, before the Democratic Republic of Congo gained independence. It has 363 pupils, including 169 girls, and, until recently, it had no sanitation facilities or sources of safe drinking water.
"It certainly contributed to the deaths of many children in the past," said local chief Mama Matondo.
She recalled how the children used to go into the bushes to relieve themselves, exposing them to the danger of snake bites and other diseases spread through dirty hands and dirty water. And how these unsanitary conditions exposed everyone in the community to illness.
Japanese grant provides better facilities
A grant from the government of Japan has radically changed the school's circumstances. It now has clean water sources and sanitation facilities.
The facilities were built by the NGO Centre d'Orientation, de Promotion et de Formation (CORPCOF) as part of the DRC's 'Clean Schools' programme. Altogether, 252 primary schools in the district have benefited from the Japanese grant.
When an official delegation from Japan visited, along with officials from UNICEF and the Ministry of Health and Primary Education, they saw first-hand the impact that their grant had had on the community.
No longer a health risk
Bukaka Alphonsine, age 15, is a member of the school's Sanitation Brigade.
"Since the completion of the latrines, our teachers have banned us from polluting the bushes around the school. What's more, we are not allowed to come back into the classroom without washing our hands after using the toilet," she said.
The construction and rehabilitation of basic infrastructure in DRC remains a challenge. The Japanese grant is helping the country work towards achievement of the Millenium Development Goals in rural areas.
"This UNICEF and Japanese project could not have come at a better time," said Makivangi, who has taught health education and environmental sanitation in the Kiboto primary school for the last 29 years. "Our school and villages are no longer a health risk for our children."