By Mustapha Sesay
One major factor that has been affecting the peace, health and agricultural activities in schools in Sierra Leone, including the city of Freetown, is the provision of quality water in most school compounds.
The situation has been so acute that majority of the children leave the school compound without a cup of water to drink while others hardly wash their hands before eating.
Hence, diseases like Cholera and Dysentery always affect the health of these children. In situations where poorer parents cannot afford the high cost of medical facilities, lives are easily lost through this process. At the start of the academic year in some schools, teachers try to secure few buckets to store water and they are located in the staff room and classrooms, but these buckets easily dry up as a result of the large number of children scrambling to quench their thirst during the day.
Others are seen moving from one neighbourhood to the next searching for water to drink.
But not notwithstanding the quality of the water, most drink the contaminated water given them.
In similar vein today, Agricultural Science has become a core subject in schools to encourage students develop a keen interest in the subject so that after schooling they will in their own little way contribute to the food security drive in Sierra Leone.
But alas! Most of these good polices are designed for schools, little taking into cognizance that there are certain benchmarks to be put in place before this dream is actualized; prominent among is the provision of adequate water facilities for the agriculture sector.
For plants to grow, there is need for water at all stages but its absence means that agricultural activities will not flourish. So this grave mistake by Ministry officials turning a blind eye to the provision of water facilities in all school is frustrating the drive by school children to undertake practical agriculture.
The situation is not only acute in the urban towns but also in the heart of the city of Freetown where pipe water is hardly visible in schools.
A classical example of one notable school that has been a victim of acute water shortage for over ten years is the West Africa Methodist Collegiate School, along Wilkinson Road in the west end of the city.
Despite it prominence in the history of Sierra Leone as being established a hundred years ago in 1911, yet for quite some good number of years now it cannot boast of affordable drinking water for its growing population, not until the 27th June, 2011 when the philanthropist, Dr. Adonis Abboud handed over to the school a new constructed water well to cater for the domestic and agriculture needs of the school.
It was a scene of joy and smiles on the faces of school children, authorities, ex-students and Members of the Board who turned out to actually see a dream come true in their school. Presenting his key note address Mr. W.T.S. Ade Cole, President of the Old Boys Association Sierra Leone Chapter, revealed that as part of their 100 year anniversary celebration, on the 1st November 2010, it was thought prudent to launch this programame were people both past students and the public were requested to pledge.
It was during such moment that Dr. Abboud having felt the need for a community to go without affordable water for over ten years or more pledged the construction of a water well for the school.
As Dr. Abboud rightly told his audience that it was a six months project and come 27th June, 2011, the well must be completed and handed over to the school authorities.
It is the opinion of the school authorities that during the road rehabilitation programmes, the authorities at Guma Water Company would have made it possible for pipe water to be available to the school campus. But to the dismay of all, the road project is almost completed with the tarring thus leaving the school without water.
This signaled to many that unless other options were explored, the school was still going to suffer from acute water shortage which will hamper development, education and other programs in the future. It was on this note that staff and students turned out in their numbers during the commissioning of the water well project to commend the philanthropist.
He commended Dr. Abboud for his stance in working with the marginalized and deprived communities and children.
On his part, Dr. Abboud stressed the need for the educational and health sectors to be given priority as they are key components to development in the country.
It was ridiculous to hear of one constructing water wells in the heart of the city. This is as a result of the demand of the school to go without water for years. On this note, Dr. Abboud saw the need to rescue the children from the water crisis.
He also cited the strides made in the provision of a distant learning satellite disk for Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone.
This Principal of the Junior Secondary School Mr. Sesay recalled a strike action by students in 2009, and among key concerns were the lack of affordable water in the school but with the completion of one, it is expected that this problem will now be a thing of the past.
Madam Veronica Perri, Principal of the Senior Secondary School on behalf of the administration extended gratitude to Dr. Abboud and assured that the water well will be used for its intended purpose; similar sentiments were expressed by a representation of the students.
The programe was climaxed by the commissioning of the newly constructed water well.