One Toilet and a Spigot for 600 Students: Maury Students Raise Money for South African High School

Students at Matthew Maury Elementary School now understand what it’s like for many children around the world who don’t have easy access to water. Last Monday they carried bottles of water — some large, some small — around Maury’s track to raise awareness of the world’s growing water crisis and raise money for a high school in South Africa.

What exactly did students learn by walking with jugs of water?

As the world population rises, so does the demand for water — and water equals health and wealth. According to the World Health Organization, 844 million people globally lack a basic drinking-water service. Without easy access to water, a family may never be able to rise out of poverty. As a result, education suffers, or is abandoned, due to the time required to fetch water for the family. Worldwide, an estimated 200 million hours a day are spent collecting water each day.

Parent Jennifer Keneally and friend Francis Lyons came up with the walk idea last year while teaching a global leaders class at Maury. The class resulted in students wanting to do a water run and fitness expo. Working with physical education teachers, the pair were able to incorporate the walk into Encore time without interrupting student instructional time.

Why South Africa?

Lyons had visited EZ Kabane High School in Port Elizabeth, South Africa a number of times and wanted to do something about the lack of water he witnessed. The school currently has one just toilet and one spigot for its 600 students.

Keneally and Lyons followed a service-learning curriculum designed for K-12 students by 501(c)(3) and also partnered with another organization, Global Environment & Technology Foundation (GETF), which offered a dollar-for-dollar match to the money the students raise.

Last year students walked a combined 4,000 laps and raised money for a Port Elizabeth preschool. This year, their goal was to walk 4,500 laps and raise $5,000 — a total of $10,000 for the water project at the city’s EZ Kabane High School.

fourth grade students at Maury's water walk

Lyons said the money will go specifically toward working toilets, more running water in the high school’s kitchen area, and a couple of water fountains.

Because this is the second year for the walk, Maury Elementary students are feeling globally connected, empowered, and have a deeper appreciation for the water that magically comes out of their walls each day.

We want them to be aware of how much water they use everyday. They now know one toilet flushes uses up 5 gallons of water,” Lyons said.

Keneally said that sense of entitlement children may have is erased after the run.

They learn water is precious … It gives them a little bit of perspective,” she said.

ACPS, Brooks