By Christine Kabazira
_Moroto Municipal Primary School with a population of 606 pupils has been using two boreholes since 2016 when National Water and Sewerage Cooperation cut off their water supply due to outstanding bills._
According to the Ministry of Water and Environment’s sector performance report of 2017 and the Ministry of Education and Sports’ school WASH mapping of 2016, the situation of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in schools in Uganda is not meeting Uganda’s national standards. The report states that, 15% of the water structures are not functioning. According to the national standards, there should be one latrine for every 40 students. In the report, it is reported that in Karamoja, the ratio is 71 children for each latrine.
In 2018 Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and UNICEF launched a Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme in Karamoja region with the aim of supporting districts in Karamoja to meet the National WASH in Schools standards in all schools across the region. The programme seeks to directly benefit 56,000 children in 100 schools with a package of WASH interventions that will ensure all National WASH in Schools standards are met in those schools.
In February 2020, UNICEF and KOICA commenced the construction of a solar powered pumping system in Moroto Municipal Primary School with an aim of improving the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in the school.
On Monday 14th 2020, the United Nations Resident Coordinator H.E Rosa Malango and the Assistant Private Secretary to the President, Caroline Kembabazi together with other United Nations Delegates visited Moroto Municipal Primary School to check on the progress of the WASH program in the school.
According to the WASH Construction Consultant Moses Luwangwa who supervised the WASH program at the school, the school was in a bad condition before the commencement of the construction.
“We found that the girls’ dormitories were very far from the latrines (200-300 meters away) and this paused a threat for them especially at night. The menstrual hygiene management was not good and the school’s water supply had been cut off by the National Water and Sewerage Cooperation in 2017 because it could not settle the bills.”
When the school’s water supply was cut off, the school resorted to using boreholes.
“That’s when they started using the boreholes. Even then, the water supply was inadequate because there were only two boreholes in the whole school. One was in the school compound and another was down where the teachers live” added Luwangwa.
Daniel Engwau, the headmaster of the school added that, the teachers and the pupils were not the only ones using the boreholes. They shared the two boreholes with the school’s neighbours from the community who have no other place to pick water.
“We have a population of 606 pupils. So, using two boreholes with the teachers and the neighbours was very hard. The water levels were very low and sometimes early preparation of food was hard.”
Upon completion of the WASH project.
Mr. Engwau, the headmaster of the school says that the menstrual hygiene management of the girls can now be observed because of the plenty supply of water and the clean toilets, bathrooms and incinerator.
“We have more girls than boys and the menstrual hygiene of the girls was not that good. But now with the newly constructed facility for the girls that also has an incinerator and a bathroom, the menstrual hygiene will be observed.”
In addition, Luwangwa, the Construction Consultant noted that the construction team had to make the facility user friendly for the girls.
“The girls now have their latrines 20 meters away from their dormitories. The facility has toilets, a bathroom, water taps and an incinerator.”
On the Reopening of schools and observation of the COVID 19 Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs)
Mr. Engwau added that the school is now ready to reopen while observing the SOPs.
“As Moroto Municipal Primary School, we are ready to reopen. We now have plenty of water and the facility is user friendly because the pupils can practice social distancing as they wash their hands. For us our job is to buy the soap for them.”
Utilizing Renewable Energy
The pumping system is powered by Solar energy. Therefore, the school does not have to worry about water shortage due to electricity shortage.
The UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda, H.E Rosa Malango commended the use of renewable energy and made suggestions about thinking towards the installation of a solar system that can have the whole school lit. This would enable pupils to study at night considering the fact that it opened a boarding section.
“The school can actually host kids during Covid but they need more solar power for security around the school.”
She also noted that Karamoja, due to it’s plenty of sunshine can be a hub for solar energy hence transformation of different sectors including education and livelihoods.
” We all saw enough sunshine as we walked around. Imagine you bring solar power to the shelter of the girls being protected by the nuns. The nuns keep the girls safe but tell us that the night is dark, which is a security risk.”
“The youth who are working on table mats, textiles and liquid soap. Imagine if they had solar power. They could work a the time. Not just for hours. They could actually mass produce what they are doing and sell it to different parts of Uganda” she added.
Over the years, Karamoja has been painted as one of the poorest regions in Uganda with a commonly used phrase, “We can not wait for Karamoja to develop.” However, it’s high time that this narrative shifted. The region, being strategically located at the boader of Uganda and Kenya, having a variety of natural resources including mountains and minerals is a potential hub for investment.