Improved sanitation retains more girls in school
By Kusali Kubwalo
She purposefully walks to school knowing that she only has two terms before she goes to secondary school. At 18, Eveless Mayenje is much older than most of her classmates in standard 8. This does not in any way daunt her as she is focused on staying in school to be sure that she becomes a nurse.
School has not always been enjoyable though as, two years ago, Eveless had to drop out. She reached puberty and suddenly the school environment no longer offered her the protection and privacy she badly needed.
“I struggled when I first had my period. I had to walk to the nearest bush which was far away. By then, the damage had already been done and the boys were laughing at me,” says Eveless.
The first solution was to stay at home every time she had her period. This did not work as she was always behind her school work.
“I decided to drop out. When I told my elder sister she laughed and told me that school is for boys and girls are for marriage,” she explains.
Two years at home did not change anything for Eveless. Her two sisters who had dropped out of school to get married came back home poorer than they had left. For Eveless, the only way out of this poverty was to go to school so she could fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. An outreach activity by the Kawale Primary School sanitation club gave her an opportunity to return to school.
“When we visit communities, we provide information on good hygiene and sanitation methods. Most villagers do not know the link between disease and poor hygienic methods,” noted patron of the Sanitation Club Alfred Mazibuko.
This awareness is conducted by members of the sanitation club who are pupils at the school. The members also impart this knowledge to fellow students during the morning assembly once a month.
It was at this meeting that Eveless realized that Kawale Primary School now had separate toilets for boys and girls courtesy of UNICEF.
This initiative is under the Child Friendly Schools package, an intervention that seeks to create a conducive environment for learning.
Under this package, Kawale Primary School was provided with a water point and ten toilets for boys and girls. As soon as these were built, a substantial rise in girls’ enrollment was noted from 355 in 2007 to 404 in 2008.
This new friendly learning environment will perhaps make Eveless realize her dream of not only becoming a nurse but also becoming the first woman from her family to graduate from college.