Equipping Schools With Girl-Friendly Toilets

Group hand washing stations and latrine blocks with features meeting the needs of menstruating female learners at a local school in northern Uganda. Photo by Rotary International

In Uganda, the Rotary-USAID partnership is, among other things, helping schools offer all their students adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities by constructing drainable latrines, group hand washing stations and latrine blocks with features meeting the needs of menstruating female learners (namely a changing room and an incinerator for disposal of sanitary waste). In the partnership, the construction of sanitation and hygiene facilities and the organization of technical training workshops on sustainable operation and maintenance of these facilities are led by Rotary’s partner, the USAID-financed Uganda Sanitation for Health Activity (USHA).

In May 2021, in the lead-up to the annual celebration of Menstrual Hygiene Management Day (MHM), May 28, USHA in collaboration with Rotary and local governments, organized activities around the handover of newly completed sanitation and hygiene facilities to 10 schools in the northern Ugandan districts of Gulu and Agago. A Rotary team, including members of the Rotary clubs of Kajjansi, Kampala Nalya, Kampala South and Kitgum, actively participated in the activities, which started with USHA’s training of School Management Committees, technical staff from local governments and other key stakeholders in the Operations and Maintenance of the facilities.

“The training was strong on good practices of water and sanitation,” said Rotary member Richard Kalungi, a medical doctor with no previous experience in WASH projects. “It was quite concerning that we have schools which lacked toilet facilities and many in which girls, boys and teachers shared the same. In other instances, schools would have to keep digging pits every often as the ones they had got filled or could not be emptied. Hand washing facilities were not as available as would be expected and many learners would not get a chance to wash hands after visiting toilet facilities or before eating food – and many did not know the correct way of washing hands.”

Kalungi said he learned a lot from the various workshops. “We were introduced to pit latrines which had an option of being emptied hence solving the challenge of having to dig new pits. We were also taken through the types of incinerators – the stand alone type and one built onto the girls’ facilities. The hand washing facility which allowed over 10 learners to wash hands simultaneously was also something we hope to promote in many other schools and public facilities.”

The workshops also covered the best practices for sustainable operations and maintenance of the systems, for example the regular cleanings of incinerators to avoid clogging and safety protocols for the proper burning of materials. In one session, participants were tasked with developing schedules for cleaning of latrines and emptying of sludge.

Following the trainings, participants toured the new sanitation facilities for their formal commissioning and handover to schools. The toilets include 5 stances with one stance for people with disabilities, a washroom with a soakaway pit, a pit emptying access cover and an external group hand washing facility. The toilet blocks for girls feature at their rear an incinerator with a 3-meter high brick chimney which is adjacent to the washroom. A galvanized iron sanitary drop-pipe allows users to dispose of menstrual hygiene articles directly into the incinerator from either the toilet stance or washroom without leaving the facility.

USHA understands that building new sanitation facilities and training school management committees and local government technical staff to operate and maintain them are not enough to ensure sustainability, particularly when the partnership program ends. This is why a professional development entity such as USHA partners with Rotary’s network of grassroots volunteers who are local leaders with influence in communities.

According to Samuel Mutono and Jacinta Namulundu of USHA, Rotary members have critical roles to play in keeping communities mobilized on operations and maintenance. Areas of contributions include helping communities understand the importance of financial contributions from parents, supporting schools in developing and implementing operations and maintenance plans, conducting regular monitoring visits to schools to help them identify and resolve challenges, and influencing relevant authorities to expand or rehabilitate systems and services. Rotary members could also help identify best performing schools and organize exchanges between schools for purposes of learning from each other.

By Rotary International’s Francis Mujini and Joyce Magala, and USHA’s Agatha Angwetch, Samuel Mutono and Jacinta Namulundu. This blog was originally published on Rotary International-USAID WASH Partnership website. 

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Francis Mujini and Joyce Magala of Rotary International; and USHA’s Agatha Angwetch, Samuel Mutono and Jacinta Namulundu
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