Back to school: the future of water starts here


Speed Read:

  • New educational resource developed by the Gro for GooD team launched for secondary schools in Kwale County, Kenya to increase understanding of groundwater and water quality
  • Outreach to schools teaches girls and boys about water science and management
  • Event held on 17th March to celebrate the collaboration between the UPGro team, the schools, local government and private sector partners.

 

“You have a very great opportunity through your water clubs, guided by your teachers who are here and who can support you. We should take this as a very special opportunity for all of us” 
Water Module - Student Resource
Water Module – Student Resource

The UPGro Gro for GooD project has been delivering a programme of engagement to teach young people in Kwale County about water science and management. Water Clubs at 3 secondary schools have been participating in field trips, practical activities, experiments and conducting their own group research projects. This outreach work aims to develop students’ research and communication skills and showcase career options in the water sector.

In the run up to World Water Day 2018, the Gro for GooD project was delighted to welcome Madam Bridget Wambua, Director of Education for Kwale County, Kenya, to provide opening remarks (extract above) at a special event to celebrate the success of the Schools Water Clubs supported by the project over the last year. As the event got going, students listened with great interest to the keynote speech by Prof. Dan Olago from the University of Nairobi, and then took to the stage themselves for a series of presentations about club activities including water quality testing of school waterpoints, the installation and use of rain-gauges on school grounds, and field trips to the Base Titanium mine to see how the mine manages and recycles water in its operation.

Video extract from Prof. Olago’s speech

Other students presented their own mini-research projects into topics such as water conservation in agriculture and strategies for keeping water safe to drink, and one group gave an excellent explanation of artesian wells based on an email exchange with Gro for GooD hydrogeologist Mike Lane.

Students also brought practical demonstrations and posters to show in the teabreak, including a solar still demonstration from a group of students who had just heard that they are through the local round and have been invited to show their improved solar still design at Kenya’s National Science Fair for schools.

Madame Wambua and Professor Dan Olago then presented the schools, water clubs and club patrons with certificates of appreciation for their hard work and dedication to water-related environmental education, and 2 laptops were given to each club. The laptops were provided by the UK charity IT Schools Africa and preloaded with water-related environmental education resources collated by the Gro for GooD team.

Students also received print copies of a newly published Water Module Student Resource which was developed by the Gro for GooD research team with input from students and teachers at the schools. Mr Joseph Kimtai, teacher and club patron at Kingwede Girls Secondary School, said,

“I find this module of activities about water so helpful to the students – it complements what we are teaching in class. It also encourages critical thinking and solving problems related to the environment which is in line with one of the competencies of the incoming competency-based curriculum for Kenyan schools.”

The resource has been published under a Creative Commons licence so that other educational programmes in Kenya can make use of the content.

Co-author of the Water Module, Nancy Gladstone, said:

“It has been a privilege to work with secondary school students in Kwale County and help to meet their really encouraging thirst for knowledge about water. Education has a vital role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal for water and we are sure that many of these students will put their learning to good use at school and as they go on to jobs and further education.

“The Water Module event also provided us with an opportunity to thank the teachers, headteachers and local partner organisations such as Base Titanium and Rural Focus Ltd. who have all been critical to the success of the clubs this past year, and to contribute to discussions about building the water module into ongoing education programmes in Kwale County, both formal and informal, so as to reach more students and further enhance learning.”

 

 

Further info:

Groundwater is essential for economic growth and can contribute to human development if resources are used sustainably to benefit the poorest in society. The Gro for GooD (Groundwater Risk Management for Growth and Development) project is striving to help government and groundwater users find a management approach that balances human health, economic growth, and resource sustainability demands and benefits everyone. Project partners are University of Oxford, University of Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Rural Focus Ltd., Kwale County Government, the Government of Kenya’s Water Resources Authority, Base Titanium and KISCOL.

For more information please contact:

Photo: Presentation of certificates by Madam Bridget Wambua, Director of Education, Kwale County (Photo: P. Thomson, University of Oxford)

Meeting Kenyan girls’ thirst for groundwater knowledge through ‘Water Clubs’

by Nancy Gladstone and Saskia Nowicki, Gro for GooD project, November 2017

Red dye spreading through a model ‘aquifer’ helps girls from Kingwede School in Kwale County, Kenya understand how pollutants travel in groundwater. The students are part of a school water club supported by the Gro for GooD project in partnership with mining company Base Titanium Ltd. Maji (water in Swahili) clubs  at 3 secondary schools within the Gro for GooD study area are proving to be an effective outreach mechanism for the groundwater research project. Almost 100 students are involved and over half of them are girls. The focus is on learning through activities, which have included hands-on sessions about groundwater recharge, storage and pollution using aquifer kits; practical experiments using water quality tests to demonstrate simple water filters and safe water storage; installing and gathering data from rain gauges; and field trips to see industrial water use and borehole drilling.

We asked the girls at Kingwede Maji to write a short paragraph on why they signed up to the club. Their responses indicated just how aware they are of the problems associated with inadequate water management – the risk of disease, time-consuming treks to waterpoints, seasonal water scarcity — and just how motivated they are to find solutions.

collecting samples
Students at Mivumoni School collecting samples for water quality testing during a club activity led by Geofrey Wekesa (teacher and researcher, also pictured above)

 

“Where I live we have rivers and also other sources of water. Our water get polluted especially the river water mainly from animal waste. I am in this club so that I can know how to treat the water so that it can be safe for use.” Munirah R.

“I am so eager to know how that water from the river may reach nearer where we can easily get it. Reason being that from our homes to the river is quite a long distance and it usually takes us almost a whole day looking for the water. Which is time wasting and also tiresome.” Jackline K.

“The reason as to why I am interested in this water project is to know why some of the areas in Kwale County and all other parts in our country have scarce water supply? And what causes this? And what are the things which we can do to avoid this?” Halimah A.

The clubs are now working on group projects with remote support (via WhatsApp groups!) from staff and students at the University of Oxford. Meanwhile, Gro for GooD researchers and the clubs’ champion teachers are preparing material for a resource package that will capture the learning from the programme. We are also working on developing partnerships and networks for wider dissemination of the resources in Kenya.

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Students from Kingwede Girls School learning about industrial water use on a trip to Base Titanium mine. A major goal of the initiative is showcasing career options and pathways in environmental science and management.

It is inspiring how much these students want to deepen and share their understanding of water. Whether they decide to pursue careers in water management or simply become better-informed members of groundwater-reliant communities, the knowledge they gain through the water clubs will help them have a positive impact.

“When the club was introduced to my school I saw it as a big opportunity and decided to join it because I knew I would get ideas that would help back at home. My hope is that I will learn several ways to purify water which will bring an impact back to my home county.” Fatma M.

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