“I no longer have to beg my friends for a few sips of water when my supply runs out (she laughs)...in fact, I no longer have to carry a water bottle from home”. said Aishatu Abdullahi, a 15 year old pupil of Gobirawa Special Primary School in Fagge Local Government Area of Kano state.
For Aishatu Abdullahi, a 15 year old pupil of Gobirawa Special Primary School in Fagge Local Government Area of Kano state, going to school is a better experience. Her school is among the 20 schools in the state that benefited from the ESSPIN-supported borehole project. Before the intervention, the children trekked as far as five kilometres to and from school with plastic containers filled with water. With serious overcrowding at Gobirawa (with 11,962 pupils, 114 teachers and 30 classrooms, it’s the largest primary school in West Africa), lack of clean water was a major problem.
Now UKaid through the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) has equipped the school with a solar-powered borehole, a 22,500 litres tank and 10 tap stands, to the delight of the pupils and teachers.
ESSPIN is a multi-dimensional education sector governance programme working at different levels to improve the way education is planned, managed and financed - it's not just a water project! Putting water and, importantly, sanitation in to a relatively small number of pilot schools is part of a more comprehensive whole school development process that includes improvements to teaching and learning, school management, quality assurance, teacher career structures, as well as the school environment (infrastructure). As with much of what ESSPIN does, the water and sanitation component is about showing by doing - both the process and the benefits of managing resources efficiently.
Improving the school environment through better water and sanitation makes schools more "child friendly" and comfortable places to learn. This is important in terms of enrolment and retention - keeping kids attending. The same could be said for teaching staff. There are obvious benefits to child health (which improves attendance), and better learning because less time is spent collecting water, both at school and at home to bring with them. And hydrated brains work better. The benefits of clean water and sanitation are generally greater for girls who carry more of the burden of water collection and are more inconvenienced and vulnerable when using the bush. Better menstrual hygiene is an important consideration for teenage girls like Aishatu and allows them to keep attending. “Now the toilets can be cleaned more often”, she notes.
Aishatu hopes Kano State Ministry of Education will be able to make other improvements to the school infrastructure and she looks forward to toilets with doors, benches and desks in the classroom, floors and blackboards with no holes on them and real chairs and tables for her teachers. “The water is a good beginning, I pray there is more to come, and my teacher tells me there is more to come.”