Constructing Middle School Latrines
- Water & Sanitation
During my first meeting with the village Children’s Club, we discussed their dreams for future development projects. One girl raised her hand and said that having a latrine at the local middle school would help her immensely. When I asked why, she gave a response I haven’t forgotten. “When I go to school, there’s nowhere I can relieve myself privately,” she said. “I'm afraid of being seen by other students or teachers, so I have to wander behind the school and there are scorpions back there. If we had latrines, I wouldn't need to choose between relieving myself and being safe.” At the request of students and notable members of the community, our project is to construct one latrine with six cabins at the local middle school. During the construction process, we will hold meetings with community members and students about the importance of budgeting for future construction projects, the feasibility of private latrine construction, and the importance of good hygiene practices, including hand washing and latrine usage. Hand washing importance will be emphasized by the construction of two foot-pedal hand washing stations and water will be easily obtained from the three rivers closest to the school.
On December 21st, 2018, a meeting was held with village leaders, including the district and village chiefs, the chiefs of the four neighborhoods, and the presidents of the Village Development Committee (CVD) and the middle school Parents of Students Association (APE) to discuss future projects for the village. We completed our first Participatory Analysis for Community Action (PACA) activity, a Priority Ranking activity. And upon discussing potential projects in the village, the first suggestion was latrine construction at the middle school. This suggestion came from the APE president, my principal work partner, and was agreed upon by all present at the meeting.
On May 12th, 2019, another meeting was held with members of the village hierarchy, the school board, the CVD, APE, Mother’s Club, and the Community Development Committee (CCD) to discuss our timeline and further steps for latrine construction. We completed a seasonal calendar PACA activity, and we found that construction would need to start after October 2019 and completed before February 2020, to avoid the time of year when rain is most common. We assigned members of the CVD and CCD to find price estimates for latrine construction from expert contractors. We also called our local Hygiene and Sanitation Technician to obtain local building standards for public latrines. The technician came to the school and together with the school board, we decided on a location for the latrines. The results of this meeting were substantial: we now have a location for the latrines, an agreement with a nearby mason who has completed similar latrine projects for PLAN Togo, and the involvement of every village development group in making this project successful. As a measure of whether this project was wanted by the major beneficiary (the students and teachers of the middle school), I held verbal interviews with the village Children’s Club, the teachers of the middle school, and dozens of students who attend the school. All students and teachers agreed that latrine construction was the best idea for a school project. I also held verbal interviews with members of our village Mother’s Club. All the mothers in the Mother’s Club agreed that a latrine project would be the best primary project for my service and asked how they could help. We discussed the formation of a Latrine Committee as a subgroup of the Mother’s Club, where members of the committee would oversee future latrine reparations and maintenance. The President of the Mother's Club was enthusiastic about this idea and immediately volunteered to be a member.
To guarantee that the project will be sustainable, a Latrine Committee will be formed and members of the Mother’s Club will be the members of this committee. This idea originated from the Mother’s Club president, who is passionate about the successful implementation of this project. The committee will be responsible for latrine repair when necessary, as well as training community members on hygiene and latrine usage, through information sessions. These women will be given resources to help private citizens yearning to build household latrines. They will also attend quarterly meetings with the CVD as representatives of a latrine-building campaign in the village. This will contribute to the female presence in local development projects, as well as play to the strengths of mothers who are active in the community and wish to maintain development projects that benefit their children. Regarding the sustainable use of latrines, we will hold training meetings with members of the CVD, APE, Mother’s Club, and the student body to instruct them how to teach others about budgeting and good hygiene practices. Particularly with the youth, we hope to instill a sense of importance on the subject that they will impart to other students. In this way, we will train student leaders that will encourage the wanted behavior (better hygiene practices at school) in ways other adults at the school cannot.