May 12, 2018: Gbarpolu – The administration and three hundred plus students are disappointed over the continual absence of safe drinking water and latrine facility in Belle Baloma Public School located in Belle District official seat, Baloma Town.
“We do not have hand pump here, so we used that small road you passed by and get water for the whole school to drink and this same bush around the school is been used as toileting bush because there is no latrine on the campus”.
“If they [do] not provide us drinking water, then what kind of development will they ever bring for us?
It was during recess hour; 10:00 a.m. at Baloma Public School – a semi-high school located almost five minutes walking distance away from Baloma town, the official seat of Belle District when a local voices reporter arrived on the school campus.
After driving on an awful tough terrain road little over 100 kilometers away from Gbarpolu Capital – Bopolu City, Belle Baloma School was reached by a local voices reporter in a no network district.
While in the office of the Vice Principal for Administration (VPA), Mr. G. Robert Tanjoe of the school, many students were seen drinking from a bucket through a single cup. It is the only source of drinking water according to the VPA of the school.
“Make it quick with the cup I want to drink”, a student said to his friend. Another student said, “I na want [to] drink your balanced water, drink and let me drink too, I want [to] go to class”. They kept coming and drinking from the same cup and bucket.
I spent little over four minutes in Mr. Tanjoe office and observed over 11 students who drank from a bucket and cup. The water was running up and more demand for water was increasing as the bucket ran out of the water.
Some of them were even annoyance and decided to walk three minutes away from the campus to drink directly from the swampy water.
And the VPA said to Local voices that “we ourselves draw our own water to drink. Sometimes in the morning, we sent one to two students to get water for us”. According to him, they get the water from the swamp behind the school building in the bush. “We do not have hand pump here, so we used that small road you passed by and get water for the whole school to drink and this same bush around the school is been used as toileting bush because there is no latrine on the campus”, Mr. Tanjoe disclosed.
The Belle Baloma government school VPA said: “we too are in Liberia; let the people know about what is happing here so that they can help us”.
Many of the students who spoke to local voices are worried about some long-standing gaps of basic necessities in their school.
Joeriah S. Johnson, a 7th-grade student said: “we are only living by God Power, look at the kina water we drinking”. He further added that “for me, I do not know whether some of us will even end our school because of this bad water we drinking every day in school”. Johnson foretells that “God for bay any small sickness catch us here we will die”.
For Annie Harris of the 8th-grade class, she explained that “that sickness like this we keeping in our body. Da, not watch-crutch can kill people, that from this same water more people can die, so we want the government to help us save our future, we need hand pump and good latrine on our campus”.
“If they [do] not provide us drinking water, then what kind of development will they ever bring for us? We in the bush, but the bush is (are) not in us. Let them know that we the one will help this district so let them prepare us now for better tomorrow”, Peter Yarsiah of the 9th-grade class told local voices.
Students Betty Sumo and Doris Lackey, 14 and 15-year-old respectively of the 3rd-grade class were so curious about local voices presence on their campus and said ”so what will you do for us now? Will you bring hand pump and toilet for us in this school? Though local voices are yet to answer their million dollars questions, they also added that “Uncle’O will you come here again? When you go please tell our big-big people to not forget about us in Belle district”,
Meanwhile, the town chief of Belle Baloma town, T. Mendsco Sumo said the condition of the school is the priority of the government through the town. “Our PTA are working together to see into it that our lawmakers do something good for our schools in the district, not just the headquarter school”. He thinks that the quest fora quality education cannot be achieved in the absence of healthy community for the students to keep learning.
“For our children to learn good book they need to be healthy. So yes, they need modern latrine and safe drinking water facility here too”.
For Youngor Jackson she believed that if school going children are well it will help them to save enough money. “If our children are in the good area, it will make was to work fine and get money to buy things for them for the next year but when sickness business come like the way it can happen, we cannot understand the farm work”.
The Belle Baloma public school runs from ABC to the tenth grade class. The only school with tenth grade class. Because of the absence of necessities in the school, it has 188 female and 187 male, a total of 375 students enrolment this 2017/2018 academic school, the least in the school history compare to over 400 pupils in the previous year.
Students that usually graduate from the said school migrate to Zorzor City in Lofa and Bopolu in Gbarpolu to further their education. While others also extend their trip to Monrovia to complete their secondary education.
Story and photos by Henry B. Gboluma