Learners drinking safe water from the fixed borehole
This committee was formed following the challenges that we had here at our school the school environment was not safe for learners, especially girls and those with special needs Wilson Mlaliki, chairperson for Nambiti Safe School Committee started narrating the story of how Nambite Primary School got trans-formed by Girls Get Equal (Nzotheka) project. The school which is originally a brainchild of the Church of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP) mission, is located in Chipupa village, Group Village Headman Mwalala, Traditional Authority Nazombe in Phalombe district. Nambiti CCAP church cathedral lies at the center of the school campus. However, according to Mlaliki, the school has for so long been facing a lot of challenges as far as inclusive education and gender responsiveness are concerned.
Just before Nzotheka project came to our school, we had stayed for 6 months without water on campus as the borehole was damaged but there were no efforts to have it fixed. This greatly affected adolescent female learners who need water for sanitary purposes as they need to get changed during menstrual periods. Mlaliki continued to narrate. According to him, teachers also rely on the same borehole hence they were affected too as they had to go to a farther borehole at Nambiti Health Centre to fetch water before preparing for classes. Again, learners had to go to the farther borehole to drink water when they get thirsty during classes which made them miss larger parts of the lessons due to the long distance covered to walk to and from the borehole.
Mlaliki pointing at the constructed disabiity-friendly toilet
Moreover, some of the classes at the school had too much darkness inside as the windows are small hence it was hard for learners to see whatever is written on the chalkboard. Another challenge was that the classes had no wheelchair ramps which made it so hard for some special needs learners to get into the classrooms. Dester Makungwa, chairperson for School Management Committee who is also a member of the Safe School Committee also explained that the toilets for learners were only suitable for those without disabilities. There was no special toilet for learners with disabilities.
In the year 2020, the situation at the school started getting better as Nzotheka project intervened with trainings for teachers as well as the safe school committee. “We were enlightened by CRECCOM’s training under Nzotheka project on the need to make our school safe for learning especially for girls. Following the training, our committee in collaboration with the headteacher, the chief and the SMC contributed MK12,500 for the maintenance of the borehole and it was fixed.” – Mlaliki explained. We also bought two transparent roof sheets that cost MK35,000 each and they bring light into the classes that were too dark inside. – Mlaliki continued.
Makungwa also added that the safe school committee and the SMC also utilized the School Improvement Plan funds for the construction of wheelchair ramps and a special toilet for learners with disabilities. Apart from that, the committee also conducts sensitization meetings in the community to change the attitudes of people toward supporting both boys and girls’ education. The school is now a conducive environment for teaching and learning as both boys and girls enjoy their education. The learners no longer walk long distances during classes just to drink water.
The teachers also prepare for classes in good time as the borehole is close by. “The borehole used to affect our sanitation and hygiene but now we have clean water close by which we gladly use.” – Davie Madondolo, deputy headteacher for the school commented. Learners with disabilities also easily get into the classes and use the special toilet with no challenges. Girls no longer abscond classes when they are having menstrual periods as the water to be used for sanitary purposes after visiting their changeroom is available. Such a safe school environment is contributing to keeping girls in school which is a component of the NORAD-funded Girls Get Equal (Nzotheka) project being implemented by CREC-COM in partnership with PLAN International. The project aims at reducing child early forced marriages and early pregnancies; and contributing to girls’ education attainment.