In October 2014, National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) launched the School Water and Sanitation (SWAS) Clubs as a novel initiative that targets school children who are a critical segment of Uganda’s population as they are tomorrow’s leaders. The program creates awareness about water and sanitation in schools and the country at large through sensitization and empowerment of children. Through SWAS, NWSC endeavours to promote literacy, expression and creativity among young people on water and sanitation by engaging them in different activities including: poems, games, debates, essays, quizzes, skits, drama, green campaign (tree planting), WASH tech innovations and school talks; all aimed at promoting safe water, sanitation and environmental protection in our communities.
Since its inception, NWSC has had three successful SWAS conventions with more than 2,000 participants and membership of more than 200 schools across the country. Through SWAS, the member schools have been able to hold Water and Sanitation days, career guidance, tree planting campaigns with over 50,000 trees planted, community engagement and WASH campaigns. SWAS clubs have also influenced and enriched school curriculum. Besides NWSC team, the pillars behind the success of SWAS are: Dr. Eng. Silver Mugisha, the Managing Director, NWSC, Mrs. Tumuhairwe Sylvia Alinaitwe, the Deputy Managing Director Finance and Cooperate strategy, NWSC, who is the SWAS patron and Ms. Sarah Namuwenge, the Corporate Communications Manager, NWSC.
However, despite the success registered, SWAS is still at the Genesis of its journey. NWSC plans to expand SWAS clubs to more schools across the country and empower schools to play a more active role in SWAS activities. NWSC hopes to partner with other key stakeholders, to organize regional conventions, to disseminate and publish SWAS activities and to support development of the winning WASH technologies. Since inception, the School Water and Sanitation Club program has never looked back. On the road to a clean environment, SWAS can say they are just beginning to sow the seeds of sanitation and the green revolution. The program has not only grown to spread round the country but boasts of giving back to the outstanding schools. With two trips so far, one in France and this year in Swaziland, the study experiences have been enriching.
The delegates from Uganda comprising of the Presidents (pupils and students) and Patrons (teachers) of different schools in January this year had a week long experience of picking a leaf from the water and sanitation practices in Swaziland. The team led by Sarah Namuwenge, the Corporate Communications Manager from National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) had a tour of the Swaziland Water Services Corporation (SWSC) head office in Ezulwini, Nhlangano regional office, Manzini and Mbabane’s pigg’s peak. The team also toured the waste water treatment plants at Ezulwini, Matsapha and Nhlangano at Mahamba, as well as the SWSC laboratory ISO 17025:2005 accredited in Mbabane. They visited Maguga dam used to generate 29.9 MW of hydro power, used by farmers for irrigation and supply potable water to all; and most importantly, used as a tourist attraction. The visit to Mantenga cultural centre crowned it all.
Addressing the team at the start of the tour at the SWSC head office in Ezulwini, Namuwenge stressed the goal of SWAS whose focus area among other things is on education and career guidance, innovation, creating awareness, environmental protection, sanitation and hygiene to all. Observing that the fish rots from the head, the Strategic Services Director SD Skhumbuzo Tsabedze stated that the SWSC prides in the excellent team work, transparency and modesty of all the workers. Indeed, to be in the shoes of the Managing Director, SWSC, Peter Bhembe, a question asked by one of the presidents, Prosper Lwamasaka, one has to be social and approachable, humble and down to earth, listen and be available to all at all times and above all, be a people person. Holding onto the SWSC differentiating slogan, the managing director concluded that everyone in the country is as important, ‘We do it through our People,’ he stressed. He encouraged the team to always focus on performance and go beyond the limit and be change agents.
According to Okello Augustine, SWAS president, St. Kizito S.S Bugolobi, the trip to Swaziland was very educative and interesting. “The trip not only inspired me to work hard and pursue my dream of becoming a water engineer but also work for environmental protection. Besides, I learnt other ways of water and sewage treatment. Importantly, the visit to the SWSC lab made the Chemistry I learnt in class a reality,” he mentioned.
Another SWAS President from Budo Junior Nabaggala Leaticia Joy commended the Swaziland cleanliness. The garbage and sewage control in Swaziland are lessons Uganda needs to pick from. This they do by obeying the strict laws put in place. She suggests having such trips to learn from other countries and develop our country, Uganda. Jeanie Muwanguzi, SWAS president, Immaculate Heart Girls School Rukungiri concured with the above observing that Swaziland has a good sanitation and cultural heritage.
According to Michael Godson Ntakarimaze, patron, Immaculate Heart Girls School Rukungiri, the Swaziland tour was enriching, informative and educative. “While in Swaziland, I unearthed that Swaziland Water Services Corporation has successfully harnessed its water sources at the highest standards, in fact, at an international standard! On the issue of environment, it is evidently seen that the country has successfully preserved their forests and done water harvesting as witnessed through the life giving Maguga dam, which is not only used to produce electricity, but also to provide water to the surrounding community. Swaziland is indeed a model country which has reduced emissions and kept its annual global temperatures below two degrees centigrade. Uganda ought to borrow a leaf from this country with a rich culture and green economy!” he explains. Likewise, Nakimuli Marion, patron, Namilyango College sides with Michael that Swaziland is free from dust, congestion and traffic. John Sseggirinya a teacher at Grand Maria Primary School confirms Swaziland Water is a highly organized system.
Mr. Kamugisha Tobias, the consul of the Republic of Uganda addressing the team at the farewell dinner was overwhelmed by the young intelligent Presidents. He observed that managing resources demands travelling and in this respect, through the visit, Mr. Kamugisha maintained that the tour is a channel to strengthen the existing relationship between Uganda and the kingdom of Swaziland. ‘There is nothing more educating than travelling,’ he observed. To have quality water, sanitation and manageable sewage, Mr. Kamugisha confessed that it is possible with the young generation. With this assurance, the board of SWSC have vowed that the tour is one of its kind to aid in the exchange of knowledge. The team look forward to more exchange visits in revolutionising the world in water practices.
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