09/14/2021: St. Elizabeth Shipala Primary School Rain Tank Project Complete!
St. Elizabeth Shipala Primary School in Kenya now has access to a new source of safe,
clean water thanks to the completion of their rain tank! We installed new latrines
and handwashing stations for students, and we trained the school on improved
sanitation and hygiene practices, including COVID-19 prevention. These components
will unlock the opportunity for these students to live better, healthier lives.
"I will have peace of mind because there will be no interference between lessons
where we were taken out of class to go and bring water," said 14-year-old student,
Patricia N. "That being the case, I will have enough time in class to do revision
(to study), and this will lead to improvement in my academic performance."
Teachers were just as excited as the students about the new rain tank on campus.
"Everything has been made easy for both teachers and pupils," said Head Teacher Mark
Head Teacher Mark Shitikha.
"Initially, a lot of time was wasted getting water from the borehole. But with water
in our school compound, there will be a great improvement in our academic
performance. With water within our reach, [the] sanitation standards of our school
How We Go From Ground to Rain Tank
Construction for this 75,000-liter rain tank was successful!
Parents, staff, and students helped our artisans gather everything needed for
Girls bringing bricks.
The school's kitchen staff and a few parents helped provide meals for the artisans,
while the school provided the artisans' accommodations. Locals helped our artisans
with their manual labor, too.
The process officially began with our staff and school administration looking around
the school compound to determine the best location for a new rain tank. This needed
to be the best site with enough land and a nearby building with good, clean roofing
to catch the rainwater.
Then, we cleared the site by excavating the soil to make level ground for the tank
We cast the foundation by laying big stones on the level ground and reinforcing them
using steel wire, concrete, and waterproof cement. We affixed both the drawing pipe
and the drainage pipe as we laid the foundation.
Next, we formed the walls using a skeleton of rebar and wire mesh with sugar sacks
temporarily tied to the outside as backing.
We attached this to the foundation's edges so that the work team could start the
Ferro-cementing process. They began layering the walls with cement, alternating with
the inner and outer side until six cement layers were in place. (The sugar sacks are
removed once the interior receives its first two layers of cement.)
Inside the tank, we cast one central and four support pillars to ensure the dome does
not cave in once cemented.
Meanwhile, we plastered the inner wall while roughcasting the outer walls. We dug and
plastered the access area to the tap outside the tank, installing a short staircase.
In front of the access area, we constructed a soak pit where spilled water can drain
from the access area through the ground. The pit helps to keep the tap area dry and
Dome construction could begin after the tank walls settled. We attached a dome
skeleton of rebar, wire mesh, and sugar sacks to the tank walls before cementing and
plastering it using similar techniques as the wall construction. We included a small
manhole cover into the dome to allow access for future cleanings and water
We propped long wooden poles (about 75 of them!) inside the tank to support the dome
while it cured. Then it was down to the finishing touches: fitting a lockable cover
over the tap area, affixing the gutters to the roof and tank, and setting an overflow
pipe in place at the edge of the dome for when the tank reaches capacity.
Once finished, we gave the rain tank three to four weeks to undergo complete curing.
Finally, we removed the interior support poles and dome sugar sacks and cleaned the
Ready for use!
This project funded six new ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines, three for the
girls and three for the boys. These new latrines have cement floors designed to be
easy to use and clean, locking doors for safety and privacy, and vents designed to
keep air flowing up and out through the roof. With a rain tank right on school
property, there should be enough water to keep them clean.
We scheduled hygiene and sanitation training with the school's staff, who ensured
that the training date would be convenient for pupils and teachers. When the training
day arrived, the facilitators Betty, Stellar and Mercy deployed to the site to lead
The Head Teacher had asked us to train the whole student population, but due to
COVID-19 restrictions, we trained a representative group instead. These students can
pass the knowledge on to their colleagues.
We focused on COVID-19 prevention, transmission, and symptoms while also covering
several other topics. These included personal hygiene such as bathing, oral hygiene,
and the ten steps of handwashing; environmental hygiene; child rights; operation and
maintenance of the rain tank, latrines, and handwashing stations; and leadership and
governance. During the latter, the students elected their peers to lead their newly
formed student health club.
The club will be significantly involved in the water, sanitation, and hygiene project
management at school. It will encourage good health and hygiene practices amongst
their peers, teachers, and the larger community.
Trying out handwashing techniques.
We involved stretches, dances, and physical activities between each topic to keep the
pupils' energy up and their minds active. By the end of the training, each pupil
understood their role in sustaining clean water and good health within their school
The two handwashing stations were set up during training and handed over to the
student health club. These were placed outside of the girls' and boys' latrines to
encourage handwashing after latrine use. Health club members will teach other
students how to wash their hands at the stations properly, make sure the stations
are filled with water, and ensure that there is always a cleaning agent such as soap
or ash available.
Both girls and boys were shy when the facilitator brought out a sanitary towel.
However, after shedding more light on menstrual hygiene, the participants opened up
and asked a lot of questions.
Training students on menstrual hygiene.
"Personally, I really appreciate our facilitators for coming to our poor school to
enlighten us on sanitation matters," said Laureen C., a 14-year-old pupil. "Most
girls fail to come to school during their monthly period because they fear being
laughed at by boys. But boys were asked not to laugh at us, but help us instead."
"The training was valuable to me because there are some things that I never took
serious like...washing my hands, brushing my teeth, among others," said Hilary, a
13-year old student.
Hilary demonstrating dental hygiene during the
"With this knowledge, I promise to put into practice what I have learned, and by so
doing I will always be clean."
We asked Hilary what it was like to be at home for most of the last year due to
Kenya's national coronavirus-related school closures and what it has been like coming
back to school.
"The pandemic really affected me," Hilary said. "I was prepared to sit for my final
exam last year, but that was not the case. One year was wasted at home."
But the training filled Hilary with the resolve to apply what he learned. "As the
Chairperson of [the health] club, I will try my level best to ensure that pupils
observe all the rules and regulations put in place and even back at home. I will
ensure that we have soap at all times, be it at home or school."
When an issue arises concerning the rain tank, the students and teachers are equipped
with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure the water point works
appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact
our field officers to assist them. Also, we will continue to offer them unmatchable
support as a part of our ongoing monitoring and maintenance program.
Thank you for making all of this