A visit to an inspirational primary school in Lesotho in 2015 prompted a fundraising campaign back in West Cork to facilitate the drilling of a water well at the school. Kay Quinn, the driving force behind the project, spoke to Kieran O’Mahony recently
WHILE we in West Cork may take a basic such as clean water for granted it’s a different story for those living in Lesotho in southern Africa, where lack of access to water, especially in schools, is a serious problem.
This was something that struck Kay Quinn, a teacher at Schull Community College, when she along with other staff and students visited St Theresa’s Primary School in the Leribe district of Lesotho in 2015.
Schull Community College has an established partnership and friendship with the Holy Names High School – also in Leribe – which was established more than 11 years ago. Last Friday, Mr Kutloano Pheko, Charge d’Affaires with the Lesotho Embassy in Dublin, visited the school and met with both students and staff there as well as visiting the Sailing centre.
It was while on one of their cultural exchange trips to this high school that the Schull delegation got to visit St Theresa’s Primary School.
‘We met Matsepang Mothoalo, the very forward-thinking principal, and she is determined that the over 800 students should have a proper education so that their futures would be more productive and thus enable them to seek proper work. The students feel there should be more opportunities for them than their parents,’ said Kay.
‘We also got to meet the staff and pupils, who came out to greet us, as if we were really important people.’
However, while Kay and the rest of the Schull group were being welcomed, one of the things that Matsepang explained to them was that they have no water in the school.
‘She told us that the students had to go home for drinking water, which in some cases could be up to an hour away and then some would not return. She explained that some of the children would arrive in school with empty stomachs and face the day ahead with very little to eat.’
Kay said she was shocked that the basic human right of access to water was not available to these children. Matespang spoke in further detail about the issue and explained how the school could not progress and move forward, in her opinion, while this problem remained.
‘That was a key moment for me when I heard this and I promised I would do something. At the time, I didn’t know what that would be but I felt something should be done,’ added Kay.
It didn’t take her long to get some fundraising in gear once back in Ireland and she got help from lots of people including friends and family.
‘Tim O’Connor from Schull had worked in Lesotho previously, and he contacted the Drilling Company, Maseru Pumps there about the possibility of drilling a well. In the meantime, Elyssa Curran and Aisling Quinn held a teenage ball to get the fund started.’
Over the subsequent two-year period Kay and her family and friends fundraised tirelessly to gather the €10,000 needed for the well.
‘The well was finished in 2017 and we attended a handing over ceremony in the school when we visited Lesotho in August with students from Schull Community College. You would not believe the appreciation that the children have for this well. It has changed the school.’
‘Now every morning, there is porridge available (covered in sugar and peanut butter), for everyone who needs it. The children have cups to gather water from the well if they are thirsty. Each class is now growing vegetables, which they can take home, and members of the local community can get water there too. It is a community project, with funds from the locality paying for repairs and upkeep of the well.’
Kay said the project was such a success that Matsepang and herself decided that another primary school, Pelele Primary in the Berea district of Lesotho could benefit from a well too, and that was drilled on November 4th last.
‘However, we do not have the funds for this yet, but I know that as a community here in West Cork, we can raise the money to pay for this well, which will provide a basic right to another community in Lesotho.’
Kay expressed thanks to artists Majella Collins O’Neill, Terry Searle and Danny Smith who have already donated paintings in order to help raise funds. ‘People in our community have been so kind and generous. We want to thank all of the supporters of this project for their kindness and vision.’
Email [email protected] for more information on the latest Lesotho well-drilling project.