Friday, 25 September 2009

Bringing water to Muheta School

This is a photo essay of my visit to Muheta primary school last week. I discovered that Muheta needs money urgently for rehabilitating its water supply, and providing a shower room. One of my fellow VSOs has some money from her community in Ireland and we felt it was the ideal project for them to support.

Just getting to Muheta is a challenge. It is a long way out from Gitarama town. You follow the valley of the Nyaborongo river and then climb and climb, up and up, winding in and out of little valleys and going back on yourself.

You thread your way up and up into the Ndiza Mountains.

Right now it's the end of the dry season and everything is brown and burnt up. We need rain.

The only access road corkscrews its way up a mountainside. It it terminally muddy and slippery in the rains, and chokingly dusty in the dry season. In places there is a sheer drop off the side.

Some rooms at the school are beautiful, with windows on both sides and little patches of flower garden outside. But these are only a few of the rooms.

Other buildings in the school are the usual mud-brick ("semi-dur") design. These are old classrooms being converted into office + staffroom + store (on the right) and the school hopes to use the room on the left to set up a library. A library in a country district where houses have almost no books at all is a truly revolutionary idea. You see why I feel very fond of this particular school!

OK so much for the buildings. Now let's meet Muheta's pupils.

Muheta has almost no playgound, but it borders on this beautiful state woodland. Eucalyptus trees with grassy sward underneath and a real feeling of space. (Useless for ball games, though!). Up on the top of the hill is a big water tank fed from a spring which emerges even higher up the mountains. There's water in abundance even at the end of the long dry season.

This is the first project. The tap has disappeared, and we are going to pay for a double tap attachment. There is lots of water in the tank on the hill but at prsent it can't be used by the school.

I've posted pictures of a similar device in Ngoma District in eastern Rwanda, but this is an ingenious device using an old cooking oil can, string, and bits of wood to make a hand washing device. When you press on the pedal it tips the can and gives you a thing jet of water to rinse your hands. Alternative technology with a vengeance, and costs virtually nothing.

Our second project centres on the toilets at Muheta.

The latrines are very primitive. There is no running water to flush or wash hands after you use them. Muheta is a good school, though, and has water, soap and towels outside each classroom door. What we are going to do is convert one toilet cubicle into a wash/shower room, especially (but not exclusively) for the older girls. There is a general problem of girls dropping out in senior years, especially when they are not little girls any more but grown women, for lack of hygiene at the schools.

Rural houses - 1. This is absolutely typical of the kind of dwelling most pupils in the countryside have as their home.

Rural houses - 2. If you live in these there is no water nearby and you have to buy it from the water seller on his bicycle. Consequently water is at a premium and washing is only possible if there is water to spare.

How many more twists and turns are over the horizon?

Racing the muzungu down the road from the school. Despite the stones are the slope some pupils could outrun our moto - and a few of them were doing it barefoot!

This picture doesn't really do justice to the slope angle, but some parts of the (only) road to Muheta are so steep and so rocky that even with a big moto I had to get off and walk and let Joseph inch his way down, jolt by jolt.

My golly, don't they look suspicious! Just wait till they get running water at their school again!

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