Friday, 26 June 2009

Water tank for Gatenzi primary school

These pictures are especially for my friends at Holy Trinity Church, Bradpole. I have just returned from Gatenzi Primary School after giving them the first instalment - half a million francs - of money you have raised to provide them with a water tank.

Today it is so hot and the sun is so glaring that it isn't very good for photography, but I'm sending you these photos so that you can have a picture in your mind of what the school looks like.

The school is huge - 1250 children - and all the buildings are modern. To us in England it seems incredible that anyone would build a new school like this and NOT instal either electricity or water, but this is Rwanda, one of the poorest countries in the world, and that's how things are! There are four big blocks of buildings, any of which is ideal for having a water tank attached. The metal roofs shed water easily, and the iron stanchions holding up the roofs make it easy to fix guttering pipes. Most of the site is either flat or gently sloping, so there won't be a lot of earthworks needed for foundations.

This would be a good spot. The ground is flat and we can relocate the little garden.

There is a dusty courtyard without a single blade of grass, which is the playground. The little building is used as a kitchen and the staff employ a local woman to cook them dinners each day because it is too far, and the track is too steep, for anyone to get home for lunch. The classrooms are lovely, with windows on two sides. My only grumble is that the tin roofs get unbelievably hot during this dry season and it is difficult to concentrate in lessons between about 11am and 3pm.

Rwandan schools rarely have any sort of boundary fence, and the school yard just merges into surrounding farmland. Here one of the school neighbours has rather cheekily built a cow shelter on school land. This is also a possible site for the tank, too. (We are going to try to get the same mason as for the other Bridport funded tank at Cyeza school and take his advice on which is the best position for the tank). A school of this size could do with 3 or 4 tanks, and I'm hoping and suggesting that the school talks to the Italian organisation which also put in a tank at Cyeza - if they can fund a second one for Gatenzi then it will be cheaper for us all to install two tanks in one go.

This is the view from the school buildings. Typical Cyeza - steep hills with every single square metre under cultivation. We're only a month into the dry season and you see that some of the banana leaves are already yellowing.

Gatenzi is a Catholic school (there's a long story as to why the tank isn't going into an Anglican establishment and I'll explain it when I see you all). This is a little chapel on site which also doubles as extra teaching space when needed. The catholics here are very good about ensuring maximum use is made of church land and buildings. This chapel is also used as a community centre for evening meetings.

Here we are looking up at the school site from the approach road. There is a public road which goes right through the middle of the playground; it is quite common to find a big lorry trying to wobble its way through during playtime when there are 600+ children swarming all round it. Or you get someone dragging a cow or a herd of goats right past the classroom windows.

None of the next three pictures are posed - these children were passing by as I was taking pictures. You can see the old cooking oil pots they use for water. These children are about to set off some 500 metres down the valley to find water either from a borehole, or from a spring. The borehole water will be clean but the children will waste time going to and fro to collect it. As for the spring water, the less said, the better! And the springs tend to dry up at the end of the dry season....

The very little girl at the rear was desperate to be in the picture; when I showed her the photo she didn't believe it was herself on the camera screen!

This is my friend Imelda, the head teacher, in her office. She has no proper office and is using a spare classroom for the time being. (Can you imagine anyone building a school of 1200 pupils in England without putting in an office, a staffroom, a store room....?). This doubles as the staffroom, store room, room for receiving parents and other visitors.

These next pictures were taken during my inspection visit in February 2008. February is in the long rainy season and you can see that the sky is cloudy and the light much more dull than today's hot sun.

Ten toilets (five on each side; boys this side and girls the other side) for a school of 1200. That's 120 pupils per toilet. There's barely time for pupils to use them during break and lunch time. You can just imagine the stench on a sweltering hot afternoon. If they are too bad to use, the children go into the neighbouring fields and use them as toilets which only makes the problems worse. And just imagine the problems with hygiene if there is no water to wash your hands afterwards.... There's no toilet paper - you have to find your own. This usually means ripping the oldest pages out of your exercis book. Many of the oldest children here are strapping great adults of 16, 17 and 18. You can just imagine how they feel about these facilities. having said all that, gatenzi's toilets are no better and no worse than the Rwandan average. Now think about our beautiful new toilet and changing facility at HTB.....

Gatenzi isn't helpless and hopeless. The staff and Imelda do what they can with very limited resources. Here is a little macadamia nut tree. When it is mature the nuts are highly prized and will make a useful cash crop - unles the neighbours pinch them all at weekends!

Gatenzi's coffee orchard. The coffee brings in about RwF30,000 a year in a good year; this is almost equal to the basic salary of a teacher. The money is argued over for hours by the school's parents' committee and usually goes on things like games equipemnt, a reserve of stationery for the poorest children, some bristol paper and marker pens.

This is the 2008 coffee crop just before the beans turn red and are ready to harvest. 2008 was a good year for Rwandan coffee.

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