Why Opening a New Community Toilet Should Be Glamorous

Nestling in the shadow of a magnificent avenue of giant baobab trees is a school that helps encapsulate how thinking around water and sanitation provision needs to change if the world is to meet the goal of universal access by 2030.

Up until three years ago, the Tsimahavoabe school in western Madagascar had neither a safe water supply nor any toilets. Pupils and teachers needing to relieve themselves during the day had to use the bushes behind the school.

Without any safe water available to drink, pupils were often dehydrated during the day, thus becoming sleepy and unable to concentrate.

Three years after bringing toilets and safe water to the school, WaterAid revisited to see whether it had made a difference.

Wearing a broad-brimmed sunhat, teacher Mariette Razanamparany beamed as she told us how the water and toilets had transformed the school. Attendance had gone up and parents felt much more positive about sending their children, who were much more active and motivated. But also it had had a real effect on how she felt about working at the school. Previously she said she had found it hard to teach at the school, feeling uncomfortable about having nowhere private to go to the toilet. Using neighbors’ toilets and walking to fetch water had meant that she had to leave pupils for long periods of time, so affecting their education. But with the new toilets and water supply, the school was now able to attract more teachers.

This small school helps to encapsulate how those striving to bring about universal access need to make sure that water, sanitation and hygiene issues emerge out of the silo and become mainstreamed, seen as an essential element of the drive to eradicate extreme poverty through improving education, healthcare, gender equality, malnutrition rates and so on.

What this school shows is —> Read More