Homes and gardens

Schools and water literacy

A girl seen waiting for drinking water from a roadside tap

A girl seen waiting for drinking water from a roadside tap  

We must help schoolchildren become water literate and be wise stewards of water in the future. By S. Vishwanath

In the drought-prone areas around Vijayapura near Bengaluru, access to water is only through borewells. Government schools have to resort to buying water from tankers when the borewells fail or there is a problem with electricity to pump the water up. Cooking mid-day meals, water for washing the dishes, for the small garden which they sometimes have and above all water for using the toilets becomes a challenge in the absence of a reliable source.

One way of addressing the problem and providing supplemental water for schools is to build a rainwater harvesting system which collects rooftop rainwater in underground sump tanks. Thanks to funding from WIPRO Cares and some good work by Manjunath, a self-trained plumber, 10 schools now have rooftop rainwater harvesting systems. The school heads and teachers met recently to discuss how the system was working, the challenges encountered in maintaining them and what lessons were learnt from the experience. The Block Education Officer turned up, which was a pleasant surprise to the teachers assembled. She exhorted them to continue the good work, maintain the systems and to strike partnerships with companies for CSR funds and NGOs for implementation of water and sanitation especially since the region was dry and water tables were falling.

Apart from the water supplement that it brings, rainwater harvesting teaches many lessons for the children. For example, with the help of a small rain gauge they learn how much it rains in their school area. Even a rainfall of 500 mm over a 200 square metre roof area means 100,000 litres of rainwater to collect and harvest, a figure that usually surprises them.

With small experimental testing kits and guidance, they check the quality of rainwater for its pH, its bacterial content and its chemical content. They learn how rainwater filters work and how sump tanks need to be maintained for cleanliness. The usage of water for drinking and for cooking, for the toilet and for washing dishes is calculated and they learn the demand put on water. They learn to notice where the used water goes and whether it is treated or left untreated.

Children also become aware about aquifers, groundwater, its quality and its challenge in terms of fluoride, nitrates and other contaminants that are becoming common. They learn to test and identify good groundwater sources in their villages and towns.

It requires sustained hand holding and an interested and committed group to make this possible. Funds from companies and other donors is of great value. Working with teachers and the school management council is a skill that takes time and patience to acquire.

Above all, it takes a local committed plumber like Manjunath to be in constant touch with schools, repair pipes, clean filters and generally counsel and assist the school in taking care of its water and sanitation systems.

In the great endeavour of a clean India and in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 6- Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, it is necessary for a society and a nation to invest in schools and the schoolchildren to help them become water literate and be wise stewards of water in the future.

In this lies water wisdom and in this we must not fail.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 4:42:18 PM |

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