Education Elixir

Easy access to clean water at school is essential for a successful education programme

Helene Sandbu Ryeng
A girl drinking water from a cup
10 February 2021

TORIT, South Sudan – “Just to get water for the school feeding programme required a minimum of 20 km of walking every day as the nearest borehole is 1 km away and we need 10-15 jerrycans,” Head teacher at Iluhum Primary School, Adonga David, complains. “There were days where the food would be delayed because of the time it took to carry water, and some days there was no food at all.” Adonga shrugs.

In addition to fetching cooking water, water is also needed for drinking and handwashing. With the borehole in the schoolyard breaking down, it became difficult to run a school. “The children had to spend their breaks getting water or bring water to school. Controlling the children became a problem. Some of the children would go for water but not coming back, others would miss class,” Adonga sighs.

“Oh, we were suffering,” Nite Toffi (19), says. “We had to organize our own drinking water, so we had to bring it from home. If you run out during the day, you would have to walk home,” she says squinting her eyes on the sun. It easily gets up to 40 degrees during the day this time of the year.

A man sitting between cans
Head teacher at Iluhum Primary School, Adonga David is seated on th eporch outside his office.
A girl pumping water
Nite Toffi (19) is pumping water at school together with Elizabeth Mam (17) and Margaret Ika (17)

At Dumak Primary School the solution became to buy water from a water truck. “They charge 10 South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) per jerrycan and it became expensive for us as a school needs a lot of water,” says Jonoka Akai, Deputy Head Teacher at the school. “We couldn’t even drink the water from the truck,” Josephine Bakhita (17) says. She is one of the students. “The water was only good for handwashing but not drinking, so we had to organize that ourselves.”

A water truck would also visit Faith Ministry International Academy, “but we had to treat it before we could drink,” Angelo Adaha (13) explains. “First you mix with the powder, then you stir it for a while and then you strain in through a cloth to get all the dirty particles out of the water.” “If you don’t do it properly, you will get sick and get typhoid,” Nite Amomo (15) adds.

UNICEF with the support from the Federal Republic of Germany through KfW Development Bank has rehabilitated boreholes at all the mentioned schools in 2020, ensuring easy access to water throughout the day. That has changed the school day for all the students.

A girl is getting water from a pumping station using a cup
Mary Bibalo (17) is getting water from the borehole at Dumak Primary school in Torit

“We are using less time on fetching water for drinking but also when you are on the roster that are filling the handwashing stations. Before, you spent a lot of time outside the classroom fetching water when you were on duty,” says Eliza Amama (16) a student at AIC Nursery and primary school.

As there is no need to buy water, Jonoka is saving money every week. “Now we can use that money for books and pens instead.” His colleague at Iluhum Primary School says the school day is more structured as the children don’t have to leave the school premises anymore to get water and one person can now manage the school feeding programme.

A girl is washing her hands using a handwashing station at school
Eliza Amama (16) is washing her hands outside the latrine at AIC Nursery and Primary school in Torit. Being on the water roster filling all handwashing stations have become much easier with the new borehole.

Only 40 per cent of the population in South Sudan has access to clean drinking water. An important part of improving access is to establish functioning water points in schools. It allows the students to focus on learning rather than water fetching and it serves the entire community as well

AIC, Dumak, Faith Ministry International Academy and Iluhum are four of the 13 schools in Torit country that now have a minimum level of water, sanitation and hygiene services. Additional 15 schools in the county are lacking handwashing stations, latrines and boreholes, affecting learning for all children but girls in particular as fetching water is considered a task for girls and women in South Sudan. Under the KfW supported resilience programme, additional schools will be equipped with boreholes, latrines and handwashing stations. The pre-project assessment is done and based on that schools will be selected for the project.