Announcing Our New Community and Project!! by Cecilia Stoner

Announcing Our New Community and Project!! by Cecilia Stoner

This is the moment you’ve all been waiting for… The announcement of our next community and project for EWB Princeton’s Kenya Team! Due to the recent financial crisis with the exit of the tobacco company, Alliance One, and with the construction and maintenance of two large rainwater catchment systems, we determined that Muchebe is not ready to take on and maintain yet another project. To continue our planned assessment, we met with 7 local schools in the region over the past few weeks, and narrowed the search down to two: Kiburanga Primary School and Komosoko Primary School. Before we announce our decision, let me tell you a little about both school communities, because each was very impressive to us.

Kiburanga Primary School is located on a road a bit off from the main road in Isebania. The head teacher of the school is named Martha, and she is a quiet but enthusiastic woman who welcomed us very kindly at our meeting with her, the school management committee, and the area chief today. We heard from the committee about how water and classrooms are the two greatest problems the school faces. The school has one donated, non-functioning tank for a rainwater catchment system, so students have to instead travel to the rivers to collect water during the school day. Additionally, the school is facing the trouble of deteriorating classrooms – one classroom building is actually condemned by the government due to structural issues, but because of the lack of space for students, they still use the building. However, the school community of Kiburanga has undertaken the challenge of confronting many of their problems. The parents are constructing latrines and classrooms for the school, and additionally they began a meal program for the 8th grade class, where parents rotate the responsibility of supplying breakfast for the class so they can come in at the crack of dawn to study for the KCPE exam – a standardized test that will determine if a student can move on to secondary school. Kiburanga boasts the highest KCPE scores in the region, and also a greater number of girl students than boys, which is amazing.

Komosoko Primary School sits on the same road as Kiburanga, but an extra 7 minutes up a winding hillside. The head teacher of Komosoko, Christine, is a more assertive personality, and as evidenced by the condition of the school, she is doing an excellent job. Recently, the boys’ latrines collapsed, and she organized the parents of the school to rebuild the latrines. Now, the parents are already constructing the girls’ latrines, since those are nearly full as well. Furthermore, every morning students alternate turns in cleaning the latrines. We were told by a contact from Child Fund, a local NGO, that you can tell the quality of leadership and activity of the community by the state of its latrines – and it shows at Komosoko. The parents of Komosoko were also instrumental in building the Komosoko Secondary School a few years ago, after seeing the need for a local and less expensive secondary education alternative. In terms of need, Komosoko also cited water as the greatest problem for the school community, given the poor quality of local rivers (sadly confirmed by our water samples). Komosoko has 7,500L of functioning rainwater storage space, although the gutters leading up to the tanks are under capacity and do not have good slope. Another point I’d like to note is the cleanliness of the water in the Komosoko rainwater catchment system. The water sample we took from their tank came out as clean as bottled water, and when asked they said that they regularly treat the tanks with a chlorine product called WaterGuard.

In many ways, both schools share many of the same qualities – their closest water sources are rivers of poor quality and so they have a great need for a water system, they expressed interest in a rainwater catchment system foremost since it will be a quick turnaround for their needs, they have highly capable head teachers, and parents have assisted in a number of school improvement projects. However, from the meetings we’ve had with both schools, it appears that the Komosoko community is more actively involved and able to support a new project from the head teachers’ reports. Additionally, Kiburanga is currently in the process of receiving a couple other NGO-supported projects, so we are concerned that their resources and community involvement may be overtaxed if we were to implement a project next summer.

So, after weeks of assessment and discussion, and a secret, candle-lit ballot at dinner (because we lost power), we determined by unanimous vote to partner with the Komosoko Primary School and community!! We are very excited about this next project and have already begun the intensive technical assessment and household surveying required to collect necessary data to bring back to campus. We are scheduling a community meeting with Komosoko on Saturday for the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, where we hope to have the entire community and the area chief, Gregory, in attendance.

On the construction side of our trip in Muchebe, everything is going well. The slab is completed and cured, the underground pipes are in place and buried, and the gutters and downspouts are nearing completion (encountered a small issue with gutter slope today). We expect the final tank delivery to be tomorrow, and from there we will begin the delicate process of joining inter-tank connections. The final steps will be to attach the taps, plaster the tap stand pit, and construct a mini drainage slab for the tap stand drain and washouts. We should be done with construction early next week!

In other news, Cecilia and Lucy have both been proposed to. Roan’s hair is almost long enough for a man-bun. Our translator, Zainabu, wrote a poem about Brendan. And Julia and Danielle are busy preparing lesson plans for the students at Muchebe Primary, while Dr. Thaemert is eagerly awaiting his next opportunity to eat yogurt. We have exactly one week left in both communities, and so much to tackle! It’ll be a busy, but very rewarding, last week in Kenya!

Kwaheri for now!

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