Sanitation in Schools
Schools need toilets.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but the reality is that many schools in Haiti, and elsewhere in developing countries, lack safe, private, dignified places for students to go to the bathroom. According to Human Rights Watch, in Haiti “most students and teachers have nowhere to relieve themselves, wash their hands with soap, obtain clean water, or, for women and girls, maintain menstruation hygiene. Where facilities do exist, they may not be sufficient in number, may not function, or may not be clean or safe. Nearly 60 percent of schools lack toilets and more than three-fourths of schools lack water access.”[i] A report by the Inter-American Development Bank states: “Instead of promoting children’s health, many schools in Haiti expose children to health hazards such as diarrhea and intestinal worm infections. These conditions, mainly due to inappropriate sanitation and unsafe water sources, have been shown to hinder both the physical and intellectual development of children.”[ii]
So even though schools aren’t a central part of SOIL’s strategy (for reasons I’ll get to in a minute), we’re still working to support better access to sanitation in schools in two ways:
-Knowledge-sharing and consulting: SOIL is always happy to share the knowledge and resources we’ve gathered over the years to help schools decide what type of toilets can best meet the needs of their particular context, or training students, parents, and school staff in how to properly use EcoSan toilets. The Haiti School Project in Villard, a couple of hours north of Port-au-Prince, used the free SOIL Guide to EcoSan when planning new toilets for Foyer Divin School, and hired SOIL to lead workshops about EcoSan toilets. After months of thoughtful planning and informed preparation, Foyer Divin opened its new toilets in October 2014!
-Mobile toilets: SOIL is working with two organizations who are in the process of building permanent toilets at two local schools. Operation Blessing is sponsoring the rental of two SOIL EkoMobil toilets at a school in Cite Soleil, and Norwegian Church Aid is renting five toilets for a school in the town of Leogane. The EkoMobil toilets are providing a safe, dignified solution for nearly four hundred students in the short-term while the schools and organizations work together to construct long-term solutions. In these two communities – the former known largely for poverty and violence, the latter the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake – it’s particularly gratifying to be part of positive transformation.
We also have a few schools that have expressed interest in participating EkoLakay, SOIL’s household toilet social business pilot, but EkoLakay is designed for just that – households. In homes, adults can supervise small children (who tend to get a bit carried away when it comes to using cover material, which clogs the urine diverter, which… makes a big gross mess). EkoLakay toilets work wonderfully when properly managed and cleaned, but schools don’t necessarily have the human resources to dedicate someone to that task. Public schools can go months without receiving enough funds from the government to pay teachers’ salaries, let alone cover other costs, and private schools depend on families paying their school fees in a timely manner. All this is to say, while we’d love to have a one-size-fits-all solution for sanitation provision, we think the unique challenges of the school setting generally require a more nuanced approach.
We hope we can continue to support schools in finding sanitation solutions that work for them, and in providing temporary access while they put those solutions in place, so that all kids can focus on what’s really important in school!
[i] Klasing, Amanda, and Jessica Evans. “Letter to Vice President Jorge Familiar on the Haiti Water and Sanitation Conference.” Human Rights Watch, 8 Oct. 2014. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/10/08/letter-vice-president-jorge-familiar-haiti-water-and-sanitation-conference#_ftnref2>.
[ii] Hautier, Julien, Antine Legrand, et al. “Increasing Access to Quality Education in Haiti.” Inter-American Development Bank. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://idbdocs.iadb.org/wsdocs/getdocument.aspx?docnum=37302335>.
March 13, 2015 (5:08 pm)
I have long admired your work at S.O.I.L. as you know. I visited you a couple of years ago while in Haiti.
Also, I know you have worked well with Joseph Jenkins. I feel that his Humanure toilet, which does not need urine separation, can work better in schools, as he has shown at Amurt school in the You Tube video. Would you like to comment on this? I am always open to new information and other considerations.
Alan in Tasmania, Australia
March 16, 2015 (1:54 pm)
Thanks for the kind words. We too think that Joe’s Humanure toilets can be a great solution for schools, and we’re glad that he’s working on it, as access to sanitation is a problem that can (and should) be tackled with a wide range of solutions. That being said, SOIL doesn’t do community-managed waste treatment because we sell our finished compost and therefore have to carefully manage the process and be able to test the final product for safety.