Access to safe water protects children at Dogon Kuka Primary School

Water, sanitation and hygiene services in schools are linked to improved school attendance, retention and learning outcomes, and also crucial for the reduction of COVID-19 transmission

Folashade Adebayo, Communications Officer, UNICEF Nigeria
Gambo Ibrahim, a teacher at the Dogon Kuka Primary School, Yobe State
UNICEF Nigeria/2020
14 December 2020

Smiling with amazement, Gambo Ibrahim, a teacher at the Dogon Kuka Primary School, in Yobe State, north-east Nigeria, watched as three children ran out of their classrooms to wash their hands at a tap gushing clear, clean water in the school compound. The children laughed out loud and bantered.

“I never believed that we could have a single tap for clean water in this school, let alone multiple taps. We have never had potable running water in this school and I have been here for almost 20 years. Seeing our students using water freely is really heart-warming,’’ Ibrahim said.

The teacher is right. For many years, staff, visitors and children at the school depended on a sandy well dug inside the school. The well, which had no cover, was littered with dead leaves, paper, sticks and plastic. It was not uncommon to find dead lizards and other reptiles in the well.

Considering the state of the well, the teacher said he was worried as school re-openings drew closer, after the protracted closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The well at Dogon Kuka
UNICEF Nigeria/2020
The well at Dogon Kuka

“I had many questions I could not find answers to. For instance, children are supposed to wash their hands with soap before going into the classrooms. How were we going to do that with well water? It was obvious that without running water, the purpose of COVID-19 prevention measures would be defeated and everyone would be at risk,’’ he said.

“I didn’t know that UNICEF and government of The Netherlands were constructing a giant borehole in this town. We came back to school, to find six taps in the compound. Now we have enough water for the students when they visit the toilet and for handwashing when they arrive in the mornings. We abandoned the well. We are so grateful for this initiative,’’ Ibrahim said.

Children wash their hands at Dongon Kuka Primary School, Yobe State
UNICEF Nigeria/2020
Children wash their hands at Dongon Kuka Primary School, Yobe State

The six water points at Dogon Kuka Primary School are extensions of the borehole constructed by the Yobe State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA) and UNICEF, under a multi-state water, sanitation and hygiene project funded by The Netherlands Government (DGIS). The two-year project saw the construction of 57 handpumps and rehabilitation of 50 handpumps in Fune and Geidam local government areas of Yobe State. Three solar boreholes were also constructed, while 10 others were rehabilitated across communities in the two local government areas.

Water, sanitation and hygiene services in schools are linked to improved school attendance, retention and learning outcomes. It is also crucial for the reduction of COVID-19 transmission in school communities and homes.

Nine-year-old Ibrahim Audu said the new water facilities in the school has stopped the beatings he received from neighbours when he ventured out of the school into their compounds to drink water from their taps because he was so thirsty.

“Before now, I was beaten each time I stepped out of school to a neighbouring compound to drink water. But now I can drink water as often I want in the school. I am happy about the water,’’ he said.