Poor Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Facilities Reduces School Attendance Especially for Girls for Some Schools In Mulanje

Civil Society Organisations, Governments, and other WASH practitioners often ignore the importance of WASH facilities when proposing solutions to increase school attendance, especially for girls. The availability of sanitation units cannot be overemphasized, as the availability of inclusive sanitation units can encourage primary school children to go to school. The state of WASH facilities at Chimwaza primary school in Mulanje was a very good example of a school with poor WASH facilities. The school had a total of 6 dilapidated toilet blocks with 2 rooms each. Three blocks were used by male students while the other three were used by females. The male and female urinals on-site were nothing but ramshackle structures. There were also two toilet blocks with a single room each that were used by teachers. Despite the fact that the toilets were the only available ‘relief centers’ and were used every day by the learners, they did not however meet the requirements for a standard toilet as stipulated in the National Sanitation Policy. The insufficient number of toilets at the school was contradicting the UNICEF’s recommended toilet pupil ratio which stands at 1:30. The poor sanitation conditions do not only put the learners at the risk of disease outbreaks caused by poor sanitation and hygiene, but it also nurtures a cadre of citizens who underrate the importance of sanitation to the nation.

The girls’ toilets did not have menstrual hygiene rooms. Adolescent girls were therefore stricken with the burden of either managing their menstruation in a very poor environment or missing their studies when on period. Either way, the girls do lose since they are either prone to urinary infections which compromise their health or miss out on studies that are key to their brighter future. When girls are menstruating, they need access to a water point and to have a place where they can dispose of their pads. Without this, girls may miss up to 5 days of school every month or worse, drop out of school completely.

CCODE INTERVENTION

Centre for Community Organization and Development (CCODE) with financial support from the DESWOS – German Development Assistance Association for Social Housing, and the German Ministry of Economic Development (BMZ), has constructed 54 VVIP toilets, 27 each at Chimwaza and Khaya primary schools in Mulanje district. CCODE has constructed a total of 27 pit latrine toilets at the Chimwaza School campus. 13 toilets are for boys. One of the toilets is specifically designed to be disability user friendly. Additionally, the boy’s toilets contain 2 urinal sections and 2 handwashing areas.

CCODE Executive Director Zilire Luka

The organization noted an acute shortage of toilets in most primary schools in Mulanje hence intervening to reduce the gap.
“The toilets have water facilities and as for ladies’ toilets, they have change rooms to help them during menstruation period and all are disability friendly,”

For the female students, a total of 12 pit latrines have been constructed. 1 room is specifically designed for use by disabled girl students. Additionally, a changing room is attached to the block which also contains a toilet. The Changing room has a drying area where girls who use re-usable sanitary pads will be able to wash and dry them in dignity. Two toilets have been constructed for the Teachers.

The project has also supported the school to set up a health club. With support from the Mulanje District Education Department, the project will capacitate the club and the entire school with sanitation and hygiene knowledge using the school led total sanitation (SLTS) approach.

Speaking during the handover ceremony of the WASH facilities

Director of Education, Youth, and Sports at Mulanje district council Enock Chumachawo said that there are 2,101 toilets in all primary schools in the district against an enrollment of 220, 741 learners.

Enock Chumachawo

“There is little progress made to address the challenge due to inadequate resources and we are banking on water and sanitation partners to help us in constructing toilets in our schools,”

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