The crops in Kajo Keji are all dying. Apparently they are having a grasshopper epidemic. Our guide and translator, Ceaser, tells us the grasshoppers can destroy 10 acres in one week and are wreaking havoc in this region. The area we are in provides the food for all of Kajo Keji County. But the lack of rain, combined with grasshopper problem, has left them with only a few dismal crops. They are expecting hunger to be a big problem this year. World Food Program trucks are already around. It’s so sad to see because you know that these people worked hard to plant and tend the crops. Now they are dead.
We follow up on two of the schools where we just drilled here. The first school is Jalimo Orphanage Primary School. As soon as we pull up I can see the beautiful fence they have built around the well to protect it from the animals. The water is flowing and kids are huddled around drinking. It is a beautiful sight. The first time we went to this school, I was impressed by the wonderful school administrator. I felt confident she would ensure the project was managed well. She was so happy to see us this time and said that in the three months since we drilled, the school enrollment has increased almost 200 kids!!! They now have nearly 800 pupils enrolled.
It’s great to work with schools that have good administration. So many of the teachers in these areas are not qualified to do the job. In fact, very many are volunteers. It seems that the children are starting life at such a disadvantage. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It seems that if they could just find a way to educate one generation, then those people can become the QUALIFIED teachers. I just hope we are doing our small part to encourage the value of good education, and improve the health of the communities, by providing clean water to these schools, which also serve many villages in the surrounding areas.
The next well we check on is at Wurta Primary School. Even though the enrollment is large at this school, there are no permanent structures and the kids study in huts. I was concerned when I couldn’t see the well anywhere on the school compound. Then I realized that it was a bit of a distance from the school. Evidently, they tried drilling at three different locations and this was where they finally reached the water. That’s just how it is sometimes. But the pupils did not seem to mind trekking down the path to the spot. They were just happy to have water anywhere nearby. Honestly I don’t know how kids in their classes, or the parents working in the fields, avoid fainting in these dry hot areas, when there is no water.
I started thinking about how I felt that day when I was so dehydrated. Everybody must feel like that around here all the time. I’m thinking it must be particularly hard on the children. How do they focus on school, or anything? I’m wondering how anybody ever has the energy to get anything done when they are trying to conserve water in this intense heat. I’ve had to guzzle water nonstop for the past weeks to not feel sick. This can’t be healthy. I start to wonder – which is worse, drinking dirty water or not drinking any water at all? It’s such a bizarre question. I’ve had access to all the water I could drink for my entire life. You grow up tough around these parts.
We stop by the education office to have a brief meeting before going to our last school, Kinyiba Primary School. Kinyiba is a seriously needy school with a wonderful community and administration. We tried our best to drill there but there is no water at that school. The crew drilled for three days into solid rock and moved locations several times. I need to go over some alternatives with the head teacher and the education office. I think a large rainwater-harvesting tank would be good in this situation. While we’re meeting in the education office, the head teacher of Kinyiba comes walking up. I feel so lucky. We can all discuss this together.
In the course of the conversation we learn that the head teacher has been transferred to Kinyiba Girls School. It’s a local girls boarding school, which is also in serious need of water and sanitation. I am always eager to help secondary schools, girl’s schools, or anything that promotes more education. We decide on the rainwater tank for the primary school and I agree to see what we can do about the girl’s school. I would love to try installing our eco-sanitation systems at these girl’s schools but I fear the girls may not take well to playing on the roundabouts and that’s necessary to get the water to the toilets. Before I leave they ask me if I will come speak to the girls from the boarding school about staying in school and continuing their education. Of course, I will he happy to do that!!
Next we pick up some newly submitted School Water Applications. We are always receiving new applications. I wish we could just drill for them all. We’re sure trying. It just seems like it should be a right to have water nearby. I’m somehow hopeful that if we can keep these kids healthy and help them get educated then some of these other problems in these regions will start to solve themselves.