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Shoved away by floods survivors

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KACHALA—Water still reaches this place

When over 586 people from villages surrounding Sekeni Primary School in Chikwawa thronged the learning facility earlier this year, they did not only thrust hundreds of learners out of their classrooms.

As they arrived at the school, having escaped the floods that had raged through their homes, nothing else mattered to them more than a safer site which had been a sanctuary of hope in similar circumstances for the previous decade.

They brought with them everything they had managed to salvage from the ruins left behind by the tragedy.

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But they did not take with them toilets—even those that survived the furious floods which battered the Shire Valley district.

“They had to use the toilets that we have here and sharing them with learners meant they would soon be out of use,” Sekeni Primary School Head teacher, Symon Kachala, says.

Over 3,800 learners trek to the 12-year-old school every morning and return home after lessons.

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But for three months, the locals who had been shoved to the institution by the disaster did not go anywhere else.

“Thus, sanitation became a big challenge. Some learners started shunning the toilets, opting for bushes. In fact, some toilets were full way before their projected time,” Kachala explains.

Sekeni Primary School, in Chikwawa’s central area, suffers more problems than is often said or seen about the institution.

From a distance, it looks a flawless primary school perfectly positioned to churn out cohorts of learners zealously ready to move to the next phase of their lives.

“But getting disturbed for three or four months every year is really unfortunate,” says Paulo Sitolo, an 11-year-old Standard Five learner.

He is among hundreds of those who have been persistently troubled, year in year out, by locals that always pack themselves up at the institution after floods and storms raid their villages.

“When the people who escape the floods come here, there is noise all over. It becomes difficult to control them and lessons are disturbed,” Paulo laments.

The physical sturdiness of the school’s structures makes it a pragmatic destination for those whose houses have been crushed by the floods and storms.

“But the water still reaches this place,” Kachala says. “Just that our buildings still stand, but when it comes to the toilets, the waste moves up as the water table rises, that is why they get full fast.”

The school’s head further reveals that some parents become difficult to take the teachers’ instructions on how they should conduct themselves while at the institution.

But that does not worry him much because, he says, what matters is that the villagers are not long-lasting visitors.

“For instance, they are no longer here and Save the Children has helped us improve the sanitation situation at the school which got worse when the displaced people were here,” Kachala says.

The child-centred organisation’s desire to keep children in school impelled it to empty toilets, which were almost full, at Sekeni Primary School to rectify the compromised sanitation situation.

Now, learners who were staying away from school or used to rush to bushes to empty their bowels, have clean sanitary facilities after the process by Save the Children.

“We have engaged 16 primary schools in terms of sanitation in general, training teachers so that they can teach their learners on how they can change their mind-sets and continue practising good hygiene even in their homes.

MWENELUPEMBE—We have done that in four
schools

“Regarding emptying toilets, we have done that in four schools in Chikwawa and what we are now seeing is that sanitation has improved in the schools and learners are not shunning them,” says Save the Children Health and Wash Coordinator (humanitarian), Hendrix Mwenelupembe.

With the rainy season expected to set off full throttle soon, fears of sanitation-related outbreaks are diminishing in villages surrounding Sekeni Primary School.

Mwenelupembe is also confident that threats of outbreaks which abound during the rainy season and easily spread in places where many people gather, have been sufficiently parried away from the primary schools targeted by his organisation.

Bursting with life, Sekeni School has turned into a peaceful and hygienic one once again.

And as learners scamper around, they reminisce that not long ago, they were snubbing their toilets because of their poor state of affairs.

Perhaps, they also take time to concede that the villagers who swarmed their school in the wake of the floods and storms had nowhere else to go.

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