Rupemba Primary School sits on the banks of the Ngezi River in the Zvishavane District of Zimbabwe. With 260 pupils and eight teachers, the school is an invaluable educational resource for the local community—as long as its students and teachers are able to attend.
The children of Rupemba Primary School are keen learners, but for many years they were forced to skip class. While the school’s riverside location may sound idyllic, both students and teachers experienced severe periodic diarrhoea from drinking the only water previously available to them; from the Ngezi River.
Prior to 2014, a huge 75 percent of the pupils at the primary school had contracted bilharzia. Bilharzia, otherwise known as ‘snail fever’, is a waterborne disease, carried by water snails that contaminate fresh water sources such as rivers. While the students were repeatedly treated for the dangerous disease, the problem recurred as they had no other option but to drink from the river.
With disease persisting, and many children and teachers forced to stay at home, authorities wanted to close the school due to health threats. With no other schools nearby, this would have been heavily detrimental to local children’s education and future careers, as well as a devastating loss of work for the teachers.
When Showers of Blessings drilled and installed a borehole next to the school in 2014, the threat of closure became less of a reality for the school. With safe water to drink, teachers and students returned to the classrooms without fear of getting sick.
The proportion of children with bilharzia has dramatically decreased, along with rates of diarrhoea amongst both teachers and students. Not only has the water eliminated the risk of the school being shut down, but it has also attracted another organisation to introduce a child feeding scheme, ensuring that students get adequate nutrition in addition to clean water.
The improved conditions also encouraged a group of local parents to build a new block of classrooms, offering a better space for children to learn.
Safe water is more than just having something clean to drink. With good health and education on their side, these students are looking at a bright future, full of hope and choice.