Tackling schools’ access to safe water challenges: the case of Mouni Primary School

Despite the installation of the water, not everything goes as planned.

Claude Tarpilga
accès à l'eau potable
UNICEF/2020/ClaudeTarpilga
10 February 2020

14-year-old Pauline W. Somlaré attends grade 6 at Mouni Primary School located 13 km from Niou in the Plateau Central region. Open since October 1979, it was only in 2001 that the school got its first water pump. 

Despite the water installation, not everything is going the way it should be. Few weeks ago, the school was facing again crucial water problem leading to thirst, lack of hygiene, late lessons and the often-served late lunch. The cause: the school pump is out of order. 

The pressure on this water pump was high because it was used by the students but also by the community, resulting in numerous breakdowns and repairs. The latest failure in 2019 could not be repaired. The school management committee (COGES) and the parent-student association (PTA) contributions could no longer bear the increasing costs of the repairs and the water pump was abandoned, leaving the schools without water.  

"Few students were on time in class, especially after the breaks and lunch breaks. The teachers finally resigned themselves and did not blame any student, " Pauline remembers. 

In December 2019, thanks to UNICEF intervention following a request from the ministry in charge of education, the water pump was rehabilitated in January 2020. With a depth of 47.50m and an hourly flow of 6m³, the water pump provides drinking water and fully meets the needs of the 294 students and 9 teachers of the Mouni Primary School.  

 

"The whole system was changed, including the dewatering column and all the accessories. The physico-chemical and bacteriological analyzes show that the water complies with standards”, says Mr. Ouédraogo Sayouba from the company Hydrass-Burkina who repaired the pump.  

Today, with the rehabilitation of the school’s water pump, Pauline’s nightmare is now behind her. She, like many other girls students who experienced the challenges due to lack of safe water in school, can now ensure hygienic menstrual management without difficulties. They remember laughing at the long lines at the village fountain, and the sprint to school when the bell rang for the start of classes. 

"The rehabilitation of the school water pump has been beneficial. Students and teachers now have drinking water nearby and classes start on time”, said Mr Benjamin Kabré, the school headmaster. He is delighted that the availability of safe drinking water will help children reconnect again with good hygiene practices such as handwashing with soap, and waterborne diseases will significantly decreased among students.

According to him, the school can now set up a school garden project. He is convinced that this activity will give students some notions in gardening, while tackling climate change. In addition, the vegetables produced by the students will help to improve the quality of the meals and nutrition at the canteen.

In addition, the COGES has been set up to improve the school management. Somlaré Nongemyalagré, the president of the COGES, is proud of the rehabilitated water pump. He and the members are committed to manage it and ensure that it is functioning properly. "We will be more attentive to the maintenance of the new pump. In addition to the contributions from the APE, we will seek a contribution from the community to cover the maintenance and repair costs, " assured the president. 

Thanks to UNICEF and the funding scheme “School for Africa”, children’s right to an accessible, equitable and inclusive education through safe water and sanitation infrastructures and menstrual hygiene management have been promoted in 120 schools through the construction of new water points equipped with hand pumps, the rehabilitation of old water points equipped with hand pumps or existing water points equipped with solar panel pumps, and the construction of latrines. Mouni Primary School is one of the 20 schools where access to clean water supply have been improved through the rehabilitation of old boreholes. The regions covered by the project are the Centre-Nord, Est, Plateau-Central and Sahel. 

As a reminder, based on the data from the Joint Monitoring Program (JMP 2017), 54% of the population of Burkina Faso has access to improved drinking water sources while only 23% has access to improved sanitation facilities. Regarding water and sanitation facilities in schools, Burkina Faso faces challenges, as only 48% of schools have access to drinking water and only 39% access to basic sanitation facilities (UNESCO, 2016).