WASH in schools
Female hygiene management – Bahati School, Temeke District, Dar Es Salaam
Ysra, 13, Samary, 15, and Hadija, 14, are busy checking that the girls’ toilet block in their school is clean and no rubbish is left lying around. These three adolescent girls are not cleaners; they are Standard Seven students at Bahati School in Temeke Districk, in the southern part of Dar Es Salaam. After finishing the premises check-up, they throw all used female sanitary pads in the incinerator and then proceed to report their tasks to the school’s Health Teacher.
“We take turns to clean the toilets and the menstrual hygiene room. We want them to be clean for other girls to use,” Hadija says. Just three years ago, Bahati School did not even have functioning toilets, let alone a toilet block for the exclusive use of girls. “Before, we had to use the same toilets as boys and they would sometimes disturb us, open the door…,” Ysra remembers. “I didn’t feel comfortable sharing toilets with boys, but now, we have our own toilets and boys are not allowed to come in.”
Thanks to the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Temeke Primary Schools project implemented by the not for profit organization Sanitation and Water Action (SAWA) and supported by UNICEF, Bahati School now has fully functioning water and sanitation facilities.
Between April 2014 and June 2015 the project reached nearly 14,000 pupils and 380 teachers in nine primary schools in Temeke Municipality with improved access to water and sanitation and improved overall hygiene behaviour. In addition to 10 drophole latrines for boys and 10 for girls, both with individual handwashing facilities, Bahati School now has 4 group handwashing stations on the school ground, two tippy tap handwashing stations, one toilet for children with disabilities, and safe drinking water tanks.
The girls’ toilets also have a room dedicated to menstrual hygiene. The room has a box containing clean sanitary pads and a trash bin for disposing of used ones. These are then thrown in the incinerator situated at the back of the toilet block.
SAWA, in partnership with Water, Health, Community Development and Education Team (WAHECO) has also trained the school management and all teachers on good hygiene practices, which are then passed on to the pupils. Hadija Msongoro is a Health Teacher at Bahati School and she meets with Ysra, Samary and Hadija monthly to have a frank woman-to-woman talk about puberty and personal hygiene. “I’ve received training about different aspects of sanitation and hygiene, how to maintain the facilities we have and how to deal with adolescent girls issues,” Ms Mosongoro says. “I teach girls about personal hygiene during menstruation and the risks of using unclean materials such as cloths instead of sanitary pads. But we also discuss about personal matters specific to adolescent girls.”
While all children need a sanitary and hygienic learning environment, lack of adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools has a greater negative impact on girls than on boys. Girls need safe, clean, separate and private sanitation facilities in schools. Adolescent girls are especially vulnerable to dropping out as many are reluctant to continue their schooling because toilet and washing facilities are not private, not safe or simply not available. When schools have adequate facilities – in particular those that facilitate menstrual hygiene – a major obstacle to consistent attendance is removed.
Following the inception of the water, sanitation and hygiene promotion project, Ms. Msongoro has observed improved attendance at her school. “Some girls would tell me they were not attending school during menstruation because there was no clean, private space for them to use on the school grounds. But now girls are proud of their menstrual hygiene room and make sure that it’s always in top condition,” Ms. Msongoro says.
With the construction of new toilet facilities, the number of pupils per drop hole at Bahati School is a healthy 1/20, compared the national average of 1/53 or the dismal average of 1/215 among boys and 1/187 among girls in Dar Es Salaam.
The project has also ensured that head teachers are fully on board by also training them on water and sanitation in schools. “It’s important that head teachers receive WASH training so that they can oversee all activities in the school and know what to do when something is not working well,” John Kaula, Bahati School head teacher, says. “Having running water has helped keep the school environment clean and now children no longer have to bring a jerry can of water from home.”