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Sanitising nation’s future with toilets

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By Emmanuel Simpokolwe:

NOT CONDUCIVE—A toilet at the school

A lot of many children would want to access primary education from this school. But the environment is not all that conducive. These children love education but they loathe the school’s poor sanitation facilities.

Welcome to Nambela Primary School, in Traditional Authority Mkanda area, 44 kilometres from Mchinji Boma.

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When we visited the school recently, we could not believe our eyes that such structures, which they call toilets could, be found at a public institution.

It is not surprising that most of the learners have resorted into open defecation in the nearby bushes. The risk of hygiene-related diseases is obviously high.

The situation is more degrading to girls than boys. Most of them opt to stay at home, where toilets are in good state.

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“We don’t want to use those toilets. We are always shy to use them. Oftentimes, my friends and I, who have reached puberty don’t feel comfortable going to this school because we know we can’t access better sanitary facilities when we are going through menstruation period,” Beatrice Mayilosi, a Standard 7 learner narrated.

She stopped, with shyness registered on her face. She, however, gathered confidence again, and went on to explain that lack of sanitation facilities like toilets and water has been a major threat to their education, as most of the girls drop out of school before finishing primary school level.

The school’s Head Teacher, Charles Chilembwe said the poor sanitation at the school has negatively affected teaching and learning.

“We have had huge dropout and absenteeism because most learners could compare toilets at their homes with those at the school. The ones we have at our homes are much better than what we have at the school. we teach leaners about hygiene by what they see around the school is much opposite and they feel like we are cheating them,” he said.

“Mostly, boys opt for open defecation. Girls do not. They just stay at home and eventually, most drop out of school when they reach puberty,” he said.

He said the toilets which are currently in unusable state were constructed by school management committee who did not want their children to travel long distances to access education.

Concerned with the situation, Select Financial Services Malawi (SFSM), a licenced Non-Deposit Taking Micro-Finance Institution (NDTI), in conjunction with Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM), donated K1.7 million to the school’s management committee to help in providing better sanitation.

According to Select Financial Services Chief Executive Officer, Kisa Mwelefu Kalolokesya, they were concerned with the situation at Nambela Primary School.

“We were very concerned to hear that children are going to a school without a toilet; the school does not also have a changing room where girls can take care of themselves. That is very bad,” he said.

Kalolokesya said his company, which operates on expert technological platform for loan origination and administration, helps needy schools across the country as part of their partnership agreement with TUM.

“Investing in education is the most cost-effective way to drive economic development of the country. We believe our small contribution will make an impact and motivate other well-wishers to help the school,” he said.

Kalolokesya said his company, which operates in three regional offices of Mzuzu, Blantyre and Lilongwe and also uses 33 satellite offices across Malawi, appreciates the role of teachers.

“I need to recognise the working relationship that we have with TUM. The reason for having that relationship is that most customers that borrow from us are teachers. It was imperative that we work closely with TUM and to that extent, we use TUM to identify projects that need funding so that we can add value to improvement of the education sector,” he said.

Globally, over 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to a safe, clean and private toilet – and most live in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to UNICEF, over 50 per cent of primary schools in developing countries lack adequate water facilities and two-thirds have no adequate sanitation, which are all basic things most of us take for granted.

The organisation says in Africa, half of young girls who drop out of school do so because they need to collect water, often from many miles away, or because the school has not got a basic toilet.

TUM Secretary General, Charles Kumchenga underscored the role the toilets will play in the improvement of learning at Nembele at the school.

“What is happening here is very important because as you are aware, a school that doesn’t have any toilet can be closed. This school was supposed to be closed. There is no way we can be expecting the learners to be attending classes at a school which does not have toilets. The toilets are important because they will reduce the dropout rate at this school, he said.

Through its partnership with TUM, SFSM has also made a cash donation of K2.5 million to assist in the roofing of Malundani Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) in Traditional Authority Nyambi in Machinga district. The roof was blown off by heavy winds.

The company also recently made a donation of K1.7 million to assist in the construction of Kunthulu Teacher Development Centre (TDC).

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