Residents of Buswelu Ward in Mwanza Region have commended a local non-governmental organisation, Tandabui Health Access Tanzania (THAT), for taking the initiative of building latrines at Buswelu Primary School in the region’s Ilemela District.
Work on the project had stalled following allegations of improper interference in the implementation by Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) Member of Parliament Highness Kiwia discouraged community participation.
Speaking with this reporter in Mwanza recently, Some Buswelu residents told this reporter in random interviews in Mwanza recently that reports that there were problems with work on the project jolted local residents back into action and saw builders starting working hard to ensure the project was completed without any further delay.
“Construction is going on well. The builders have started working hard after newspaper reports of the problems the project was facing, and even our MP is participating fully in facilitating implementation,” said Buswelu fish trader Kulwa Samamba, adding: “Builders commonly work till as late as 7 pm every passing day to compensate for lost time.”
Another resident, Robert Bwahira, meanwhile said legislator Kiwia’s involvement had inspired more members of the community into contributing money for the implementation of a tap water project at the school “after having given up owing to the slow progress of the construction of 12 latrines”.
“Things have improved tremendously since. The construction of the latrines is well on track, but we need to do more to make the pace even faster,” he noted.
Buswelu Primary School headteacher Hellen John commended the legislator for giving fresh impetus to “a crucial project that was in danger of collapsing owing to minor differences of opinion that have now thankfully been resolved”.
“I can say I am satisfied by the construction progress but more concerted effort is needed because there are only a few builders. The school is threatened with closure and the municipal health officer comes here every once in a while to make a follow-up, given the fact that a notice he gave expired a long time ago,” she said.
“This has forced us to consult our MP’s office, which is coordinating the implementation of the project. The legislator’s secretary toured the school recently and promised that the construction would be completed as soon as practicable,” she added.
This reporter toured the school at the weekend and found two builders working on the project under the supervision of the Chadema chairman for Ilemela District, Shadrack Sindano, who explained that it was not true that the project had stalled as commonly alleged.
He however admitted that work had been stopped for a while “to give time for basic structures such as the foundation to get stronger, adding that everything would be on place by the end of this month.
“Claims that the construction project has stalled are baseless and false because even with ordinary construction work there must be time to allow watering of the bricks to make them stronger,” he said.
According to Sindano, completion of the construction project would see his party involve local residents in the building of yet more latrines, “and anyone saying this is mere politicking is wrong and an enemy of development at the school and elsewhere in our district”.
“Constructive politics mobilises people in implementing various development projects and speeds up social progress. It is sad that some politicians appear bent on sabotaging efforts to that noble end merely because they have ideological differences with those leading the implementation of the projects,” he pointed out.
He said it was outright wrong and unacceptable for anyone to discourage people from participating in development projects meant to help them live better.
He dismissed as unfounded charges that Chadema’s policy was inherently against community participation in development activities.
Contacted for comment on the matter, Buswelu ward executive officer Mponeja Katemi hailed THAT for supporting initiatives aimed at improving the pupils’ health status and overall welfare in the ward and helping the local leadership act more responsibly.
“Time is long gone for people to say politics serves no useful purpose, and we must disabuse ourselves of this lop-sided thinking and work for genuinely people-centred development. THAT has helped us immensely in this because now local leaders are showing the way by playing a fuller part in nation-building activities,” he said.
Katemi explained that this has helped the Buswelu Primary School administration and the parents’ committee become so active that it has succeeded in helping the school access tap water.
Headteacher Hellen John confirmed the reports, saying: “We have indeed succeeded in having tap water at 250,000/- thanks to contributions from parents, with each household paying 300/-. We are now planning to install a meter so that we start using water by next week.”
The construction of 12 latrines at the school started in August last year after there were threats to close down the school over hygienic concerns and following allegations that the area MP had taken over the project from the residents.
Buswelu Primary School has a student population of 1,722 pupils and so, even with the 12 latrines in place, it still needs 74 more to comply with standards set by the Health and Social Welfare ministry. The requirement is 20 girls and 25 boys per latrine.
Most schools in Ilemela and Nyamagana districts lack quality latrines and clean and safe water infrastructure, with statistics released by the Education and Vocational Training ministry in 2008 showing that one latrine serves 111 girls and 113 boys on average.