Infrastructures increase quality of life and education

FFK 23062017One of the areas of intervention in the Food For Knowledge project in Mozambique is the construction and maintenance of the infrastructures at the primary schools.

Since 2013 the project is focusing mainly in three activities within this area: 1) construction and maintenance of school kitchens with storerooms and firewood saving stoves; 2) construction and rehabilitation of clean water systems and 3) construction and maintenance of improved latrines and hand washing facilities.

Each school has benefited from an open kitchen that provides a proper space to cook and serve the corn-soy porridge during lunch time. Attached to the kitchen, the project has also built a small storeroom to secure that the schools have a place to keep the bags of corn-soy blend (CSB) flour, as well as the utensils given to the school to prepare and serve the meals, which include pots, bowls, spoons, buckets, jars and cups.

Also, all the kitchens are equipped with a firewood saving stove. This stove is designed in a way that it reaches high temperatures faster as well as it keeps the heat longer after putting off the fire, which helps to keep the cooked CSB hot a bit longer. The most important aspect of the firewood saving stove is that to perform as described before, it needs very little firewood compared with the traditional open fire system of cooking.

All the kitchens also have a fixed concrete table that helps the cooks to serve the meals and keep the utensils organized.

Kitchens, storerooms and firewood saving stoves have an enormous impact on school and community life; here follow some examples of it:
Mozambican primary schools, in general, don´t have a space or infrastructure intended to be a place to prepare any meal for students during the school time; because in fact, Mozambique didn’t have any official school feeding programs at the primary schools until 2012.  Therefore, these infrastructures provide a suitable space where it is possible to guarantee basic hygiene and sanitation conditions during all the school feeding process - cooking, serving and cleaning.

Kitchens, storerooms and firewood saving stoves have been built by builders from the local communities. Using this strategy of contracting local builders, the project tries to secure that the communities “feel” these infrastructures as theirs. This is very important for the sustainability of the project, because if the schools and communities take the ownership of the infrastructures, they will take care of their maintenance in the future. The project works on providing them with building a technical capacity and knowledge about how to do it.

In fact, some communities have tried to copy the model of firewood saving stove built by the Project in the schools, as they realized the benefits of it, especially the possibility of saving firewood, which in some areas is not easily accessible.

Another crucial activity, with an enormous impact in the schools and communities is the construction and rehabilitation of clean water systems. The Food For Knowledge project, since it began in 2013, has been opening new wells and boreholes as well as rehabilitating existing ones when necessary. In addition to that, the project has supported some schools by connecting them to the local water supply system. All the schools have received a water tank of 1000L of capacity and the biggest schools also an extra one with 5000L capacity. The tanks are being secured with a concrete base and a small roof. They are being fixed close to the school infrastructures to use them as a part of rainwater harvesting systems. More than 230 schools have already a clean water system that has been rehabilitated or constructed by Food For Knowledge Project.

All these water systems are benefiting the schools in many ways: securing water for cooking every day, providing water for school gardens, maintaining a good standard of hygiene by cleaning the school classrooms and toilets with water. Besides that, the teachers are now able to educate students in basic hygiene habits such as washing the hands before and after going to the toilette and before having a meal.

Not less important is the training and reactivation of water committees that are formed by community members. These water committees are responsible for keeping the clean water systems in schools as well as communities in a good state of conservation. These committees are trained by the project’s water technicians about basic maintenance interventions. The Food For Knowledge Project also provides them with some basic tools to perform these interventions. Because, once again, Food For Knowledge Project believes that the best way to sustainability is mobilizing, involving, training, and trying to make communities, school councils and in general beneficiaries part and parcel of all the Project’s activities in the schools.

Clean Water Systems not only benefit schools, but also surrounding communities. The southern part of Mozambique has been affected during last couple of year with a remarkable drought, and water wasn´t easily accessible in many areas. Therefore, all the water systems that Food For Knowledge Project has built or rehabilitated during last years have made a difference in the life of the children and their families.

Finally, the last activity that involves infrastructures is the construction and rehabilitation of toilets, generally in the form of dry latrines, and hand washing facilities.

More than half of the 270 schools benefiting from the Food For Knowledge Project at the moment, did not have a proper toilette at the beginning of the project in 2013. With finalizing the last constructions that are going on now in the most remote schools, all the schools will have at least one proper toilet. Also, the Project is building hand washing facilities next to each toilette to improve the hygiene of the students and encouraging a good hygiene habit. It is important to say that in many areas, especially rural areas, the students have never used a proper toilette and it is a challenge for the schools leaderships to establish this new habit of the pupils.

The improved toilets and hand washing facilities reduce the risk of diseases such as diarrhea, which is very dangerous without a proper treatment, taking many lives of children away in Southern Africa.

As it was with the kitchens, storerooms and firewood saving stoves, the improved latrines and hand washing facilities are built and maintained by local builders, with a big help from communities around the schools. These, once more, are the key to consolidate any activity or intervention that the Food For Knowledge Project is doing in the schools. Only with school council and community involvement we can secure the sustainability.

A school with clean water, proper infrastructures and good hygiene and sanitation, is a school were the students will more likely learn more, enjoy in the school, and have a better performance. And these are three factors that may change the destiny of their lives.