Rwanda: Maraba primary school students enjoy clean water (by Jean Paul Ntezimana for Farm Radio Weekly in Rwanda)

| December 20, 2010

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Jean Damascene Hakizimana comes out of his class wearing short khaki trousers and a blue light pullover, with a five-litre container in his right hand. He walks less than a hundred metres, then collects water to fight the dust in his classroom.

Hakizimana says, “Before they brought us this water, we used to go to the bottom of that nearest hill for water.” He explains that it used to take them an hour to walk there and back.

Jean Damascene Hakizimana is a pupil at the primary school in Maraba, Huye district, southern Rwanda. He can now bring water to the school three times a day without walking far. When Hakizimana and his friends get water from the new water station, they spend some of their time playing.

But they remember what it was like before this project. They had to make the long journey, then wait in line at the public tap. Many people from nearby villages and schools used the same tap.

Alexis Gatete works at Maraba School as a cook. He also manages the school’s water station. Villagers chose him for this job. He supervises students as they take water from the station. Each water station has designated opening hours.

Mr. Gatete says, “This water project has facilitated our job. Before this year, it was not easy to cook for these children.” He explains that the students would take a long time to fetch water. The water they brought him was dirty. “This was delaying my job in the kitchen. That affected their afternoon class.”

The district pays for the school’s water station to be managed by Mr. Gatete; the school does not pay. This water station is just for the school, and is not open for everyone to use.

Alongside his job as a cook, Mr. Gatete works for a private company that manages the water station. The company was chosen to distribute water. The water use arrangement is new to this area.

According to Huye district officials, this is the arrangement which was adopted in collaboration with local people. A private company now manages the public water stations. The company is required to employ a local resident chosen by villagers. The resident supervises access to the water station. Schools and community centres pay by cubic metre. Water is sold to individuals at 10 Rwandan Francs (about one and a half American cents) for 20 litres.

District officials supervise project activities. They check to see how the private company works with the villagers. They make sure the company uses a local resident chosen by villagers to manage the station. The district also supervises the price charged for water, and checks hygiene around the water station.

Jean Marie Munyanziza is a technician in charge of infrastructure in Huye District. He says, “The little money that villagers pay will help to rehabilitate infrastructure when it is needed.” He explains that this system was designed after a similar project failed. The previous water project was left in villagers’ hands. It lasted only a few years.

The advantage of using a private company is that the company manages the water station, protects it and repairs it when needed. Public infrastructure, such as the water station, is often destroyed or falls into disrepair. The former project failed because no one was responsible and there was little follow-up. So the government decided to work with private companies to manage and maintain these kinds of infrastructure projects. Now, Hakizimana and his friends have good access to clean water.