Rapidera, 16 March 2018—The Reverend Brother Franklin Birikpe is in an upbeat mood and says that he has seen God’s grace. And he has every reason to be happy. As the principal of Saint Joseph Primary School in Hain of Rajidera District in the Upper Western Region, he has seen his institution grow from strength to strength.

“Last year we came up number three in an assessment of more than 12,000 pimay schools in the whole of the republic. This is a major achievement for us because although we are far away in the village, we competed against schools with much better facilities and we performed well. We are hpy because here we are doing God’s work,” he says.

The school is one of those that participated Joint UN programme on WASH in Disaster Prone Communities (DPC) project in selected areas of Ghana. According to the principal, hand washing was an alien concept to most of the pupils.

“Because of this we used to see a lot of sicknesses with pupils missing classes. This has however changed and the pupils are nor had washing champions and we are all happy,” he says. He enumerates the sicknesses that bedeviled his pupils as diarrhea, vomiting and other infections which led to absenteeism.

The WASH project came along with a toilet block which has changed the pupil’s lives for better. “We have a changing room for girls who are going through their menstrual cycle. Before this, such girls would stay at home and if by bad luck they had their periods while in class, they would feel ashamed to come back to school and this led to automatic dropping out,” he says.

However, the principal is appealing for an expansion of the facilities. The toilet block, for example, is stretched to full capacity. “We also have a school feeding programme but we do not have a kitchen or a dining hall. We cook in an abandoned building and the pupils eat under the trees. This beats the whole purpose of teaching them basic hygiene,” he says.

Fr. Bro. Birikpe believes that he has a duty of producing all round individuals and as such apart from class work, a lot of emphasis is put on extra curricular activities. “Every Friday afternoon we dedicate to such activities and through this we have produced good athletes, fine artists and computer competent pupils,” he says.

With the position three it got from the national assessment, St. Joseph received a certificate and 20 laptops, equipment the principal is confident will even cement the school’s position as a centre for computer excellence. He however needs help to build a computer lab because at the moment they are using the staff room as the computer lab.

His vision? He says he wants to move into hinterlands and reach more children with education. For him, doing so will be fulfilling his commission of doing God’s work, he says.

Esther Arthur is the head of the school’s health club and she says the pupils have benefitted hugeky from the initiative. “I have seen sicknesses go down, improved self esteem especially among the female pupils and better class attendance,” she says.

According to Esther, the pupils are taking the WASH message to their homes and are now teaching their parents and siblings the importance of personal hygiene. Most of them have also turned into advocates against drug and alcohol abuse among their family members, the teacher discloses.

The Regional Environmental Health Officer for the Upper Western Region agrees with the teacher. According to the official  the improved sanitation is out there for all to see. He is particularly impressed with the resilient toilets which he says have considerably reduced diseases among the residents. Some of the challenges he has noticed include the big number of people in some of the communities targeted meaning not all were able to get the facilities aimed at in the project.

Bagah adds that most of the areas under his watch had a kind of soil that gets saturated with water easily, making them flood prone. He wishes the project would accommodate all those in need since water was a basic need.

“One of my biggest sources of joy was the realization that out of 100 communitie targeted , some 62 became Open Defecation Free,” he says.