How to keep wells clean. What makes them dirty and dangerous.
How to keep wells clean. What makes them
dirty and dangerous. t is the dry season. The sun beats down the pools dry up. Everyone needs water. Bouki the Hyena knows where the well is but the village dogs know it too and every time he approaches they set up barking fit to wake the dead. Bouki slinks away
He wanders the desert and by great good fortune finds an old well, deep and full. No one is about. He cannot understand why. He leans down and peers into the well. Now he understands. There is another hyena down there; a big ugly one. Bouki shows his teeth. The other hyena shows his. Bouki snaps them together. So does the other hyena. Bouki jumps forward to bite his rival. Splash!! He has fallen into the water. He has been fighting his own reflection. He is trapped down the well. It is cold down there and gets colder as the hours go by. Bouki howls for help.
Suddenly a head appears at the mouth of the well. The head has whiskers.
Good morning says Sonko the hare.“I am so glad you are having a wash”.
“Help me out” shouts Bouki.”
Sonko does not seem to hear. He hums to himself.
Clean Hyena what a laugh. Stay down there; enjoy your bath.
“If you let me out,” pleads Bouki” we can share this well.”
Sonko thinks deeply. He has a young wife. Trips to the well take hours and make her tired. She has young children to feed. But does the hyena ever keep his word?
“We can take an oath” says Bouki, ”in front of the notary”.
“Done,” says Sonko.
“So they swear an agreement in front of the wise old green pigeon who lectures them.
“Clean out the well,” it says, “and build a wall round it. That will help to prevent Guinea Worm from spreading. It will stop children and others falling in. ”
Here pigeon looks hard at Bouki.
For six days Sonko and Bouki work like slaves. They clean out the old well, make a cover, build the wall, make a bucket; attach it to a rope, throw down lime into the well to disinfect it and plant a vegetable garden nearby. The pigeon like many other old creatures loves watching others work and giving them advice.
“Be careful” it warns them “: Keep the bucket clean; don’t get the rope dirty before you attach it; fence round the well so that the cattle cannot get near it;” but it never offers to help.
After six days hard work, Sonko sets off happily to bring this new young wife and his large family. Bouki has agreed to do the last task on his own, to build the fence. When Sonko returns the fence IS all complete, but it IS high and sharp and there was a gate a locked gate. Bouki has the key.
“I am sorry partner,” says Bouki , “but I too have got married and we are expecting children. You must understand there is not enough water here for two large families. Goodbye. Have a nice day. “
Sonko looks at the fence. He looks at the key. He looks at Bouki’s teeth. He goes away quietly … humming to himself
“Bouki though I go away;
I’ll be back and make you pay;
Make your family suffer too.
I shall be the death of you.”
Bouki just laughs and goes back to plant his garden.
Sonko calls the animals to him ;
“My friend, Bouki,” he says, “needs you help to fertilise his garden.”
“Why go out to the bush when you can do you business near Bouki’s cabbages? Come, all of you, feel free.”
So they all come, by day and by night (all except the cat who has very clean habits.) They all drop dung, even the Elephant, until there are great heaps of it between every row of cabbages. At first Bouki doesn’t mind much, he is used to smells and never washes himself, but after a while there are so many flies that Bouki’s wife and children have to give up their afternoon siesta. Whenever the children try to eat, their meat is covered with flies. They begin to feel unwell.
But the hare had not finished. He calls all the other animals.
“My friend Bouki,” he says, “is worried about these flies. He’d like us to build a latrine, just there on that little hill where the fence is close to the well.” So they dig a pit and build an animal’s latrine on top of it and all (except, of course, the cat) use it one after another, day in and day out.
The flies begin to be fewer. Bouki is happier.
Six days or so afterwards Bouki’s family become very, very sick.
They all have diarrhoea, and since no one tells Bouki or his wife what to do when the children lose too much water from their bodies, two of the smallest hyenas die. Bouki himself is very, very ill.
Sonko is standing outside the well fence eating a carrot.
“ My stomach hurts, “ moans Bouki “Help me partner “
“I am not your partner,” replies Sonko “and I’m not a doctor. Have a nice day”.
Bouki seeks out Dr. Guinea Fowl.
“What should I do,” he says.
“Drink water,” says doctor guinea fowl but not from your well.
“But I keep the well clean,” shouts Bouki. “I don’t let any of the other animals near it.”
Dr. Guinea Fowl laughs. “You are stupid”, he says “as well as deceitful. The hare has had his revenge on you. The latrine he built is far too near the well. All the germs have passed down the hill and infected your water. Your wife and children have become sick from your own water. All because you were greedy and selfish.”
Bouki stumbles out. There is the hare again. He is singing.
“Bouki broke the word he gave. Now he digs his children’s grave.”
About the story
The story is based on characters from Traditional African folk tales and ends like many in death [this time of the young hyenas]. It would have to be slightly adapted for other cultures, but the subject, preserving water sources, is suitable for upper primary children subject and central to health education in most tropical countries. It would be possible to weave in more information than here stated on well construction and hygiene
In addition to regular activities such as retelling the story, singing, poster making and drama, two special activities are recommended
1. Surveys of local well hygiene.
Visit with a list of questions and comment
2. Model making to show how a latrine can pollute a well
Choose a large container and fill it with sand. Sprinkle plenty of water on the sand. The water will collect in the bottom and form an underground pool equivalent to the ‘water table’ from which wells draw their water. Stick a cylinder pierced with small holes into the sand (use half a plastic bottle without a base) removing sand as necessary. This represents the well. Water will rise in it. Stick another cylinder close to the well. This is the latrine. Pour a coloured liquid such as ink or dye into the latrine. This represents urine and faeces. The dye will reach the underground pool and colour the water. After a while the water in the well will also be coloured.
L’Enfant pour l’Enfant, La revanche de Sonko-le-Lièvre : l'hygiène des puits, Vanves: EDICEF, 1992. Original story by Yvon Moren. Translated, abridged and adapted for this booklet by Hugh Hawes