22 March 2010
A school in a remote part of Nepal has been transformed by the simple addition of decent toilets for its pupils and classes in good hygiene.
Kuwapani Lower Secondary, located in the eastern district of Morang, used to have just one latrine, which was for teachers only. If pupils needed to answer a call of nature, they had to make do with nearby bushes and streams.
As a result, the land around the school became contaminated with human waste and, due to the lack of privacy, many female pupils chose to stay at home rather than attend school.
Now, thanks to a visit from a UKaid-supported water and sanitation initiative, the school has a new latrine which, importantly, has separate cubicles for boys and girls.
Hemkala, a pupil at Kuwapani, is relieved that she can finally come to school all the month round. "We’re happy that girls have a separate latrine,” she says, “especially during menstrual time. If we didn’t have the latrine, we would have no option but go back to home, missing many classes."
Pupils have also been taught how to maintain good personal hygiene, for example through regular handwashing. A knock-on benefit of teaching school pupils about hygiene is that they take their lessons home with them, influencing the behaviour of their parents and younger siblings.
Since the new facilities were installed two years ago, the school’s enrolment and attendance figures have shot up. Dropping out is virtually unheard of and, with trips to the bushes no longer required, lessons suffer fewer interruptions. Kuwapani is also a much more pleasant place to study and play. “The hygiene of the school area has improved amazingly,“ says teacher Purna Magar.
Facts and stats
- The initiative mentioned in this story, the Gurkha Welfare Scheme, Rural Water and Sanitation Programme (RWSP), has implemented 1,079 water supply and sanitation schemes throughout Nepal since 1989.
- The UK has provided £14 million to the RWSP over 20 years, since 1997 through DFID.
- Over 200,000 people have benefited from the RWSP, which is focused on the poor rural communities that traditionally provide recruits for the Gurkha regiment.
- Between 1999 and 2007, as a result of RWSP improvements, waterborne disease rates in these communities dropped from over 50% to under 5% per year.