Rural school celebrates clean latrines and safe drinking water powered by the sun
Pupils happily learn in a clean and safe environment
Seventeen-year old Gloria Mazakpwe is a new pupil at Ajugopi Primary School, a rural school located 15 kilometres from Adjumani town in West Nile sub-region. Gloria lives in a faraway village named Miniki and treks for an hour to get to school, and another one hour to return home. When she gets to school, she is usually thirsty and tired. To quench her thirst, before settling down in class, Gloria drinks some water from the newly installed water supply facilities in the school compound. The water is distributed through a mini-solar water system constructed by UNICEF with funding from the Government of Iceland.
Gloria is not the only pupil enjoying and celebrating the clean and safe water. Other pupils are seen rushing to the two trough-like structures installed within the quadrangle amidst the classroom blocks. One trough appears lower than the other. Gloria explains that the lower one serves the small children and the higher one is for the older ones, like her.
Gloria is not the only pupil enjoying and celebrating the clean and safe water. Other pupils are seen rushing to the two trough-like structures installed within the quadrangle amidst the classroom blocks. One trough appears lower than the other. Gloria explains that the lower one serves the small children and the higher one is for the older ones, like her. The system has multiple outlets to provide water to several children at the same time. No queues.
The water facilities support handwashing and provide clean and safe drinking water for pupils throughout their stay at school. Pupils are seen rushing to the facilities to either wash their hands or quench their thirst. The small ones splash some water on their foreheads to cool off from the hot day. The water is readily available, and soap is provided for clean hands.
Gloria recalls that in her previous school, they didn’t have water. They often left class to fetch water from a faraway borehole that required pumping. This interrupted their learning.
“In this school, this does not happen. When we sit in class to learn, we only go out for breaks and not to fetch water,”
No wonder her friends and parents refer to Ajugopi as the best school in the area because it has a constant supply of clean water.
UNICEF Water Specialist, Paul Semakula, confirms that Ajugopi Primary School is among the 13 schools benefitting from the Government of Iceland-funded programme. The aim of the programme is to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conditions in schools in the West Nile sub-region, in order to expand access to education, improve learning outcomes and create safe learning environments, particularly for girls. The school has an enrolment of 517 pupils from both refugee and host communities.
Paul further notes that providing clean and safe water alone does not improve the WASH conditions in a school. As such, UNICEF has constructed two five-stance disability-friendly latrine blocks – one for boys and one for girls – complete with handwashing facilities to which clean water supply has been connected. Furthermore, the girls’ block has a washroom with a shower to help with menstrual hygiene management and an incinerator for disposal of used sanitary pads.
Life surely is different at Ajugopi Primary School. Girls are now attending school with functional separate latrines with water, a private place to wash, constant supply of water, soap, buckets, locally made pads, and changing clothes to manage their periods with dignity. Unlike girls in schools without water, the girls in Ajugopi don’t miss school during their menstruation. “Before I would leave school the moment my periods started and stayed home until they stopped. I missed three school days every month, and the teachers would not teach me what I missed,” says Gloria.
“During my periods, I can even bathe four times a day at school. We have been taught to be very clean during this time. We have water and all that we need. You don’t have to go or stay at home,”
With UNICEF support, the pupils, including boys, have been taught to make reusable sanitary pads, and these are available to the girls upon request. The school menstrual hygiene management sessions are conducted by nursing officers from the district hospital, with support from the senior woman teacher.
At home, Gloria teaches her three sisters to make reusable pads. At school, as the head prefect, she also reminds pupils to wash their hands with soap because this protects them from falling sick.