The Start of another project!

Approximately two months ago I received a request from the head teacher at Salukazi Methodist Primary School asking if I could help them to get an electric pump for their borehole replacing the existing hand pump.  I asked him a few questions and told him I would think and pray on it and get back to him.  I really wanted to do something to help him but I wasn’t sure if we had the funds because of other projects we are already committed to.   I felt the answer to my prayer was to tell him we would help them and to rely on faith that we would have enough funds.  A few weeks later I received a large donation from one of our faithful donors so our prayers were definitely answered and we are moving forward with this project!  Let me introduce you to Salukazi.

Salukazi is one of the poorer Methodist schools in Central Swaziland Circuit of the MCSA.  It has 379 students and 14 teachers.  Thirty-four percent of the students are either single or double orphans and another 16% have parents but are considered vulnerable usually meaning their parents may have gone off and not returned or they are not employed, disabled, etc.  The school is only about 24 km (approx 15 miles) from St. Paul’s but it is in a very rural and very poor section of the country.  This area is one that has suffered without adequate or clean drinking water for many, many years.  Several of the students of this school have had Bilharzia, also known as Schistosomiasis, which is a disease caused by parasitic worms that live in most rivers, lakes, streams and dams in Sub-Saharan Africa.   It is a very serious disease that if gone untreated can eventually lead to death.  (For more information on Bilharzia see the CDC website.)  Salukazi has been plagued with Bilharzia in spite of the government’s health office trying to focus on treating those in this area for the disease.  Unless the source for water to drink, cook with, bathe, wash clothes, etc. changes Salukazi would continue to have this problem.

In 2009 the former head teacher applied for a grant from World Vision to get a borehole.  World Vision responded by digging a borehole for them and they installed a hand pump.  The bore hole is inside the school’s property.  The intent was good in that it provides water without the expense of electricity to pump the water into a storage tank.  However, this method isn’t adequate to allow the teachers that live on-site to have water in their houses or for the school to water fields of maize or vegetables so they can feed the children.   I’ve wanted to do something to help this school be in a better position to help themselves since I first came to Swaziland, but digging boreholes and installing electric pumps is a very expensive and risky project.  But since World Vision did the most expensive and riskiest part, it seemed like converting it to an electric pump while still being expensive, would be a doable project.

In the last few weeks the head teacher got me 3 estimates of the cost of installing an electric pump and I’ve gone out a couple of times to discuss the project.  I realized that I don’t know enough of the technical specifics required to determine which of the estimates was really reasonable and accurate.  So I called on Bethuel Nhelko to assist me.  Bethuel is the wonderful gentleman who helped me figure out what needed to be done at Lomngeletjane until the end of 2009 when he had some health issues.  He is fully recovered now and is very willing to help.

I must add that after getting the quotations, I realized that the funds from the one donor wouldn’t quite cover the expected costs.  And guess what?  A week later I got an e-mail from another dedicated donor that they were sending me a sizable donation which will cover the rest of the costs!  God is SO good!

One of the teachers from Salukazi showing us the existing hand pump that is installed directly over the borehole.

The drain hole that sends water spilled back into the borehole. Notice all the garbage around this drain. The garbage, or at least the bacteria from the garbage gets washed right back into the borehole as well. This is also the case when animals get inside to try and drink the water or eat the garbage.

This is the school. The closest point of the school is about 75 m (approx 250 ft) from the borehole. The garden area is up above the school which is probably about three times the distance away from the borehole. That is a long way to haul water by small buckets from the borehole to water a garden area.

Bethuel and one of the teachers showing me how the pump works. They didn't know that I already know how it works and have tried it at other schools!

Teacher's housing. They don't have water inside their homes because there isn't an electric pump.

Bethuel and Joseph Mdluli, the head teacher, discussing the placement of the water storage tank. It is approximately 140 m (460 ft) straight uphill from the bore hole. In order to get enough water pressure to feed the houses, the school, and the garden, we have to place the tank at the highest spot possible inside the school grounds.

On this past Thursday we measured all the distances and set down the plan of what needs to be done first, second, third, etc.  The first thing we have to do is build a secure building over the borehole to put the new pump in.  All of the work for security, the storage tank, the piping and electrical cables to the  pump will be finished before we actually disconnect the hand pump and have the electric one installed.  This is going to require a lot of coordination to get this done with as limited interruption as possible to the school’s water source and to minimize as much as possible the threat of theft to the pump.  And the punch line is…they need to have this finished by the middle of July!  It’s a tall order, but with the help of God, it can happen.

I should mention, that there is one downside to this project when looking at the situation from an American point of view.  Currently, because there is no cost involved in drawing the water, the community has been able to get water from it rather than walking a bit further to get it from one of the community hand pumps which feed off another water system that was also installed in 2009.  As tough as this is to swallow, the facts are that at every school where the community and school share the water source, the community refuses to contribute to the cost of electricity resulting in neither the school or the community having water because the school can’t pay the electricity bill for the entire community.  The head teacher at Salukazi has assured me that the school’s parent committee and the community have discussed this issue and are well aware and in agreement that when the electric pump is installed, the community that is currently using the water will need to walk a bit further to get their water from the community pump.  The nearest community pump is about 500 meters away.   This delicate situation and harsh reality is a big reason why donors don’t want to deal with the issue of water supply to schools.  They can’t reconcile in their hearts and minds that the school and community have to be separated.  It took me a long time to get here, but I see this really is the best solution for all parties.

Please pray for the success of this project!