One-hundred schools across South Africa will gain access to water, sanitation and hygiene education (Wash) as a result of the R30-million partnership that was announced on Friday by the Coca-Cola Foundation, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the H2O for Life foundation.
The Water for Schools project, which forms part of the Coca-Cola Company's Replenish Africa Initiative (Rain), will benefit at least 80 000 learners nationwide.
Through its interventions, the Rain Water for Schools project aims to reduce the occurrence of waterborne diseases and increase school attendance in target communities.
The project also aims to increase the capacity among those responsible for ensuring sustainability of school water and sanitation infrastructure, increase awareness of water and sanitation challenges among the general public and provide an opportunity for students to study the global water crisis and take action to tackle the challenge.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga pointed out that there was a significant backlog at schools nationally, with more than 450 schools that needed basic water and sanitation infrastructure.
"Some schools have a capacity for accommodating 300 children, but have 1 000 children attending the school, which means that the infrastructure is inadequate. A programme like this will go a long way to help deliver infrastructure and quality education. Safe water and sanitation is as important for education as books and pencils," she noted.
Interventions by the Rain Water for Schools project include the drilling of boreholes, the provision of ablution facilities and the installation of rainwater harvesting equipment. Specific interventions vary, based on local needs.
The overall effort will be coordinated by local nonprofit organisation the Mvula Trust, while consulting company Re-Solve Consulting carried out interventions in the first nine schools. US nonprofit organisation H2O for Life will be coordinating a school-to-school service-learning activity to allow learners in the US to learn about water challenges and raise funds to support Wash interventions at schools identified by the Rain Water for Schools project.
Coca-Cola South Africa president William Egbe said that a key factor in the programme was a focus on pioneering a model for the sustainable, government-led operations and maintenance of water and sanitation infrastructure at schools.
"Since schools are the focal points of communities, the collective investment in Rain Water for Schools will have an impact that extends beyond the classroom, promoting healthier and enriched livelihoods throughout the country," he asserted.
DBE director-general Bobby Soobrayan added that the department was committed to ensuring safe, sustainable supply of drinking water and sanitation at every school across the country by 2014, as part of its Schooling 2025 education plan.
"We are grateful for the Coca-Cola Company's partnership and the efforts of learners around the world to create a healthy future for South Africa's school children," he said.
The programme is already under way and nine schools received an integrated Wash intervention in early 2010. The remaining 91 schools are expected to receive Wash by 2012.