Access to water is vital to human survival, but at my middle school in Northern Benin, the closest clean water is a ten-minute walk away. This causes several problems for students and teachers at the school. The first is dehydration. PE is a required class in Benin and without access to water, students finish this class dehydrated. In addition, this school has a successful girls' soccer team who does not have access to water during their practices or matches. The second is poor hygiene. Without water, students and teachers cannot wash their hands after using the bathroom or before eating. These poor hygiene practices lead to many students to get sick and miss school. To address these problems, the administration of my school and the mayor’s office of the town has proposed digging a borehole and installing a pump at the school. A borehole and pump at the school would provide clean water not only to the students and teachers of that middle school but also to the two primary schools nearby and the entire neighborhood of houses surrounding it. After installing the pump, the school would organize several handwashing trainings for the students and for the women who sell food at the school to help improve the hygiene of everyone involved. The school already has handwashing stations, which are currently unused. With the addition of a water source on the school campus and the trainings, the handwashing stations will start being used and rates of illness from poor hygiene will fall.
My school approached me about their interest for a borehole at school. Since the conception of the idea, the administration sought out several companies that could potentially dig and install the borehole to the find the best balance between price and quality for the school. Once the school approached the mayor’s office about the project, the hygiene and sanitation department at the mayor’s office also expressed their desire to for this project. As part of their involvement in the project, the Mayor's office negotiated with several construction companies to get the school the best price. Furthermore, the Mayor's office helped the school brainstorm ways to earn money for eventual repairs on the pump. The school has discussed selling water from the pump to people in the neighborhood as a way to complete maintenance and repairs on it. The school has pledged to provide the sand, cement, water and gravel to aid in construction. They are also donating the land where the pump will be built.
Once we have a group of students who can lead handwashing trainings, they will be able to continue leading trainings year after year. This group can grow each year as well as students who currently lead the trainings teach others to lead them. By teaching younger and older students about the importance of handwashing, these students will pass this knowledge onto their families and their friends. As this knowledge spreads throughout the community, the overall health of the community will improve over time.