Water and sanitation in schools, stability throughout the territory
A new project in Sierra Leone shows us the importance of ensuring water and sanitation in schools to reverse the impoverishment of neglected rural areas. Passing on to students the ability to manage the facilities turns them into educational agents in their communities, ensures sustainability, and gives them an empowered future.
A new project in Sierra Leone shows us the importance of ensuring water and sanitation in schools to reverse the impoverishment of neglected rural areas.
Decades of war, the uncontrolled exploitation of its natural resources, and the successive ineffective governments in eradicating the illegal trade of its enormous mineral wealth (diamonds, bauxite, platinum, rutile, and iron) are the reason why Sierra Leone is the seventh poorest country in the world. The small western sub-Saharan country is also one of the countries with the highest levels of inequality in income distribution.
Access to water is an exasperating contradiction: with more than 26,000 m3 of water per capita per year, the country is among the richest in water resources worldwide, but it is one of the worst in terms of access. In 2020, according to the JMP, more than one million inhabitants in rural areas of the country (23% of the population) obtained their water from an unimproved source, and some 860,000 had surface water (rivers, lakes, and ponds) as their only possibility of supply.
The lack of sanitation is another scourge that hinders development and contributes to the country's social imbalance. More than 1.2 million inhabitants of rural towns and villages defecate in the open, and almost 1.8 million have nowhere to wash their hands.
In this context, the endemic poverty peasants suffer generates constant migratory pressure toward the cities, and the slums continue to grow. This drama, characteristic of most large cities of the poor world, is particularly evident in the capital Freetown. In slums, such as Mount Aureol, thousands of people live in indignity, like Kadija A. Bangura, a seven-year-old girl who has to cross a filthy path every day to fetch water from a well, then carries the jerrycan on her head and returns to school on time, which she often fails to do. The micro-documentary Far Away, one of the finalists of the We Art Water Film Festival 4, shows the daily routine of millions of girls who, like Kadija, have the task of fetching water for their families.
Far Away by Robino (Sierra Leone), finalist in the micro-documentary category at the We Art Water Film Festival 4.
In this project, we emphasize the importance of ensuring sustainability by creating health clubs in each center, the purpose of which is to transfer to the students themselves the responsibility of caring for the facilities and waste management. These clubs are the basis for training young people to practice hygiene and pass on the knowledge acquired to their families. This training of pupils has been a successful experience in the 23 projects in 12 countries in which we have been active directly in schools: more than 200,000 pupils and their teachers have access to total hygiene in their schools and have become educational agents in their communities.
Ensuring education in rural areas is the basis for providing future prospects for the community. If young people are trained, they will be able to reverse their impoverishment and move towards territorial rebalancing, essential conditions to stop the ill-fated exodus to the cities. Without water and sanitation, it is impossible to build an education system capable of meeting this challenge which, in addition to being economic, is ethical for any culture on the planet.