Real lives

Feature stories


Toilets should be top priority in schools - helping Laila get back to education

UNICEF Yemen/2018
© UNICEF Yemen/2018
When Laila returned to school after a year.

By Ibrahim Al Qadhi, WASH Specialist and Najwa Al Romaim, Social Policy Officer

24 July 2018, Jiblah, Ibb governorate - Laila* is 15 years old and a student in 9th grade in Saba School in Jiblah, Ibb governorate. With seven siblings, she is one of the lucky ones in the family as her elder siblings had to drop out of school and find work to support everyone. Being diabetic means that a functioning toilet at school is essential for Laila. 'I really struggle with diabetes, and when there are airstrikes and I get scared, I have to go to the toilet a lot more than my friends,' said Laila.

Usually that shouldn't be too much of a problem. But in Saba School there was no toilet and no running water, just a room where all 700 students had to go and relieve themselves. For Laila, this was not a nice experience: 'I felt really embarrassed of my classmates and teachers when they saw me using this room, it made me feel disabled and everyone felt sorry me and sometimes they teased me.' Not only was there a lack of toilet, but also a lack of knowledge and understanding of her illness, diabetes.

'Although it really pained my heart and made me sad, I decided to drop out of school,' said Laila, 'my teachers tried to convince me to stay and continue my education, but with no toilet, I felt I had to sacrifice my studies.' Yet it wasn't long before Laila really regretted her decision and became very envious of her old classmates still going to school.

So it was a big surprise when last year, the School Principal and Social Worker came to visit Laila at her family home. 'I still remember their encouraging words “You have to go back to school now Laila, you have so much potential”. Sad thoughts still overwhelmed Laila, as she remembered the stares and comments from her classmates, until the Social Worker updated her on the good news. “No… Laila, don’t cry, you don’t have to worry about toilets anymore because they have been fixed and now have running water!” 

“I hope to see you tomorrow at school,” said the principal to a speechless Laila. She couldn't wait. One year later, Laila was heading back to school. Only this time, she would be able to go to the loo!

'This means a lot for children with diabetes like me. I can manage without a textbook and a desk, but a toilet is a top priority for me,' said Laila. WASH facilities prevent children from harm and promote care of the environment. They can sometimes be the key to keeping children in school. UNICEF started supporting the rehabilitation of WASH facilities in schools in 2016. Thanks to the generous support of KfW, UNICEF has supported the rehabilitation the WASH facilities in 6 schools in Ibb governorate, including Saba School.

*Name has been changed.



 Email this article

unite for children