When Youth’s Effort Brings Water to the Gao Neighborhood School

Friday, May 10, 2019
A student from the Château extension school near by the school pump.
PACEN

“Thanks to the installation of the pump, students no longer go home to get water to drink. Moreover, now that we have water, we will plant trees in the school compound and surroundings.” Ibrahim Chehou, Head of the Château Extension school

Access to drinking water is essential to the health of students. However, many schools in the Gao and Ménaka regions do not have any water point. Lack of drinking water exposes children to chronic intestinal diseases and infections such as: cholera, diarrhea, bilharzia, Guinea worm and typhoid. These diseases and infections harm their health, nutrition and impact children’s learning. Around 90% of communities—from areas covered by the USAID Education Recovery Support Activity (ERSA)—reported those diseases as the most important health risk encountered by children at school.

The school in Château extension area, located in the city of Gao, faced these challenges. "Students had to go out from school compound to take water from the houses surrounding the school. The households they ask for help, have difficulty accessing drinking water, as well", explains Aliou Boubacar Maiga, one of the community leaders.   Lack of water reduces time on task for students who leave classes to fetch water. This situation increases drop-out rates, especially for girls as they are the ones who help the most for chores and water collection.   Moreover, none at school can make use of schools’ latrine as there is no water.

As part of its efforts to increase equitable access to quality education in the northern regions of Mali, USAID/ERSA set up youth clubs in order to promote youth civic engagement and peer education. To date, 35 clubs were set up and provided with interactive audio programs dealing with citizenship, gender, and peace promotion. Each club also assesses community needs in order to design and implement a community service project. All the youth clubs submitted a project in infrastructure rehabilitations or construction, water access, or market gardening. They are the ones, in collaboration with community, who decide upon the project they want to initiate.

This is how youth club of Château extension analyzed their community priority needs and decided to install a water pump inside the school compound. By submitting their request to the USAID/ERSA, the youth club wanted to improve students’ safety, students’ retention at school and learning, as well as sanitation for neighboring students’ families. While the USAID financed the procurement of various materials—buckets, gravel, sand, stone, padlock and cup—to install the pump, youth and community provided the manpower and some equipment for the installation.

The installation of this water pump brought a great change to the quality of life inside school and surrounding area. Thus, children are no longer thirsty and they no longer miss class during periods of great heat, aiding students’ retention and attentiveness. This is one of the six initiatives, out of 35, led by young people to improve water access in their community. "Preventing students from fetching water outside the school yard significantly improve students’ attendance and safety”, added Ibrahim Chehou, Director of the school.

That young people’s initiative reinforced USAID/ERSA’s impact on safety and learning in this school, as the project also supported the construction of a classroom and a block of two separate latrines for girls and boys. Moreover, the USAID ERSA plans to complete 70 community service projects in Gao and Menaka by 2020, including rehabilitation or construction of infrastructure, access to water, and roads repair.   USAID ERSA is a five year (2015-2020) project, which aims at mobilizing communities to increase support and safety of education for children and youth. This $15.2 million project also provides students and teachers with the tools and capacities  to strengthen their ability to both prevent conflict and prepare in the event of future unrest.

 

Last updated: September 20, 2019

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