By Patty Ranaivo, ONE Member
My name is Patty Ranaivo and I am an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Indiana University. It has been a long journey from the one-room schools of Madagascar to the lecture halls in Indiana. Even though I have moved from Madagascar, my home country will always be close to my heart.
As I grew up in Madagascar needing reliable electricity and safe drinking water, I wanted to find a way to assist my home country in attaining the infrastructure they need. There was and will always be a strong desire for me to give back. My search for ways to help led me to WaterStep, which gave me the opportunity to provide villages in different parts of Madagascar with a sustainable method to obtain clean drinking water.
Drinking water and education are subjects I deeply care about. So as I was planning a trip to Madagascar in 2015, I was inspired to carry out a project that would connect these two areas to promote awareness to primary school students about hygiene and potable water in Bongatsara, a region southwest of Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital.
The project’s direction was concretized after meeting with WaterStep staff members. WaterStep is an organization dedicated to introducing health education, as well as bringing safe water to different parts of the world. Thus, before my trip, I received training from WaterStep on health and hygiene education and the installation of water purification systems, all of which are needed in communities such as Bongatsara. They also provided me with all the necessary materials to conduct the project successfully.
The project targeted the Public Primary School of Ambolamena (EPP of Ambolamena), which would receive health and hygiene education in addition to a water purification system. The school has approximately 100 students, all taught by four teachers. The school comprises four classrooms, a room for teachers, and restrooms for boys and girls. Noticeably, there was only one tap water location at the edge of the courtyard, far away from the classrooms and restrooms.
During our first visit to the school, we first conducted a water quality analysis (only qualitative) of the tap water. The analysis tested positive for the presence of bacteria. The tap water comes directly from the water sources without being disinfected.
So our next visit to the school was to show and explain the water quality of the tap water, followed by a meeting with teachers to ensure the importance of early awareness on safe water.
As part of the training, the teachers learned to purify the tap water using a chlorine generator developed by WaterStep. Chlorine is a chemical disinfectant that kills and inactivates microorganisms that can be found in water sources. That way, all the staff members and students can all be provided with potable water!
Two hours after the installation, a final water quality analysis was performed. Two water samples were collected; one collected directly from the tap and one collected from the disinfected water. The result was promising as the disinfected water passed the water quality test! I was hopeful at this point that this would be the beginning of a broader interest to bring potable water to Bongatsara.
All the students were then brought to one room for a presentation on water safety and disease transmission. Before we left the school, we gathered all the students in the courtyard to introduce them to the newly installed water system.
Our next stop was to visit the Health Center of Bongatsara to report our findings from the water quality analysis.
There, Dr. Rasolondraibe Hasina Nirina, also known as Dr. Hasina, and the Community Women Organization were astonished to learn about the types of bacteria present in the school’s tap water, all while knowing that the Health Center is supplied with the same sources of un-disinfected water. Therefore, we discussed ways to cooperate with the EPP of Ambolamena to ensure that both school and Health Center would use the chlorine generator. Additionally, the Community Women Organization proposed that the chlorine generator be accessible to the entire community.
In summary, the overall project was a success, and we are already looking forward to organizing projects for two other communities next year. Without a doubt, it will be an exciting new start for these communities to receive health and hygiene education!