School toilets aren’t the bog standard for all
A recent survey conducted by WHO has found that most schools in low-income countries don’t have hygiene facilities. On the surface, toilets don’t play an important role in education. However, access to such infrastructure can have a massive impact on attendance rates. This is especially true among girls.
When menstruation begins for a girl, being able dispose of pads in a private place is important. It can be a pivotal factor in deciding to attend school or not. A UNESCO report estimates that 1 in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa will miss school during their menstrual cycle. This equates to as much as 20% of the school year.
Having no access to a school toilet is detrimental to girls and their education, but this impacts boys as well. If students don’t have access to a toilet, they’re also less likely to consume food and water. Not only does this cause physical discomfort for students, but it’s an added distraction during their lessons.
Schools are more than a place to study. They should also be safe places where children recognise their self-worth and potential. Their value is acknowledged when basic, but crucial facilities are provided.
With these reasons in mind, building a toilet block at Nankhono Primary School was a priority.
It took two months to construct the new toilet block at Nankhono Primary School. The build started in the beginning of July this year and finished in early September. We always build infrastructure with the community in mind. This meant that we only used sustainable resources to carry out the build. As a result, future maintenance work should be an affordable and straight-forward process.
Local chiefs, school teachers and pupils, were all consulted throughout the building process. This ensured that the toilet block met their needs as much as possible. They all had a role to play in it’s development. It’s completion was an important step in advocating equity.
The benefits of school toilets
- Clean school toilets communicate to students that their welfare is important. This in turn improves self-esteem
- Good hygienic practices are established through bathroom use
- Toilet blocks provide a safe space to encourage menstrual health and hygiene management
- Retention rates will increase among boys and girls
- Pupils won’t avoid food and drink consumption
Sanitation and health across the globe
In 2019, WHO estimated that 827,000 people in low and middle-income countries died each year because of inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene. This represented 60% of total diarrhoeal deaths.
Open defecation perpetuates a cycle of disease and poverty. Countries where open defection is most widespread also have the highest number of child deaths, as well as the highest levels of malnutrition and poverty. Lack of access to hygiene facilities universally showcase the biggest disparities of wealth.
Organisations such as Sanitation First, Global Partnerships for Education, Who Gives a Crap and WASH, have all started initiatives to build toilets for communities that need them. We plan to build more within our own. They’re one of our greatest tools in promoting education and fairness.