Lauren Halloran (Uganda)


Lauren Halloran (Uganda)

Lauren Halloran is a graduate student at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) where she is earning her Master’s in International Policy and Development and focusing on conflict resolution. Prior to MIIS, she worked with Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity, as an AmeriCorps member and, after two terms of service, as a staff member in the Volunteer Department. During this time she worked on volunteer engagement and building homes for families in Milwaukee. Through this work Lauren became interested in local, community-based advocacy and aid. While working with Habitat, she travelled to Guatemala and El Salvador and has previous experience studying abroad in Nigeria during her undergraduate degree. Lauren received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in International Relations and African Languages and Literature. Lauren spent her 10-week Peace Fellowship working with the Gulu Disabled Persons Union in Uganda. She summed up her fellowship in the following statement: "This opportunity was an incredible experience to not only get experience in my field but to learn about an area of work that is does not get as much attention as it should. I'm coming out of this summer with a new perspective to use for my future work and with a better understanding of disability rights. I hope that I can continue to advocate for these communities and that I am able to carry with me all that I've learned this summer. Thank you for the opportunity!"



Field Trip – Ogul Primary School

07 Jun

To kick off my main project with GDPU as well as this summer’s hottest new trend (accessible toilets), I traveled to Ogul Primary School to meet with the school administration and discuss the accessible toilet and hand washing station project. Located approximately 10km from Gulu Town, Ogul Primary is set back from the main road a bit and rests in a field of high grass. As you approach the school down a long bumpy red dirt road, you are greeted first by a large and shady tree.

This is the tree, Patrick (my GDPU partner) informs me, under which Ogul Primary School started. From that beginning, the school has grown larger with multiple classrooms, teacher and staff quarters, a head teacher’s office (doubles as a staff room and triples as a store), and a church. The enrollment for the school reached 560 last year but is down this school year to 375. An elementary school in Uganda is comprised of grades P1 – P7, at Ogul, the student body is made up of 188 Boys and 187 girls spread among these levels. Of those 375 students, 8 have a disability and 2 have a critical disability. In this instance, ‘a critical disability’ refers to a student who is not able to use the squat toilets that are standard in rural Uganda. Often times these students must attempt to go to the bathroom by putting their hands in the mess on the bathroom floor to support themselves. Seeing this need, GDPU piloted a project in 2015 to install seated toilets, handrails, and ramps for students unable to use the squat toilets. I’ll be visiting that school this summer to provide an update on how that project is going now.

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The tree where it all began

Upon arrival at Ogul Primary, we met with Christine, the head teacher; the head of the School Management Committee, a representative of the PTA, and two teachers.

The Latrines
First things first – our tour began with the latrines. And no matter the name for the toilet/water closet/latrine there is a requirement that comes standard across cultures, privacy. Away from the main buildings, we made our way across the unpaved dirt and grass to reach the latrines. Pictured below, neither one of these latrines inspires a great deal of confidence in the ability to offer privacy for students. The girl’s latrine’s had some obvious structural damage, and the pits themselves were close to being filled. The boy’s latrines offered minimal privacy at best but were constructed recently and thus the pits could ostensibly continue to be used. Another glaring issue for us, both the boy’s and the girl’s latrines were not accessible to students with disabilities. To get to either bathroom, students had to cross unpaved loosely packed dirt and grass. For able-bodied students this would not be a challenge, however, for disabled students at Ogul this is likely insurmountable. According to the head teacher, as a result of the inaccessibility and lack of privacy of the bathrooms, many students have opted to leave school rather than face using them.

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The girl’s pit latrine where there is no accessible pathway and clear structural damage can be seen.

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Previously used for emergency IDP camps, these structures were repurposed to provide the boy’s latrine a small amount of privacy and protection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decisions
After the tour of facilities, it was clear that the school was in need of much more than the accessible toilets we are able to offer. However, our goal this is summer is to install accessible toilets for disabled school children and GDPU does not have the capacity to support all the needs at Ogul. So, after much back and forth and a very polite and respectful negotiation, we came to an idea.

The PTA will provide the labor for the excavation of the pit latrine with the oversight of the contractor. This will take away this cost from the budget, which will allow us to buy the extra supplies needed to build four toilets instead of two. Two toilets will be fully accessible and for the use of the disabled children who cannot use the squat toilets, and the other two will be for the use of the girls. Then, it is the expectation and hope that the school and parents will be able to use the materials from the old girl’s latrine to make the boy’s latrine more secure and private.  In many situations like this one, it is all about creative solutions to make the difference needed.

The Ogul Primary PTA
This school, although lacking financial support, has the deep and inspiring support of the community and parents. Committed to making sure that the school and teachers are there for their children, they donate their time and bodies since they are not able to contribute financially to make updates. The community has previously come together to build the teachers’ huts so that they would be able to have a place to stay as well as already excavating for the previously built toilets. It was at their suggestion that we removed the cost of excavation from the budget so that we could build more toilets.

***

One last note, on the ride back to GDPU I reflected on my time at elementary school. I don’t know about any of you but I was the type of child who was too shy to use the bathroom at school. My shyness would’ve been compounded exponentially had my stall not had a door or had gaping holes in the back. A lot of frustrated and embarrassed tears would’ve been shed and I could definitely understand the desire to drop out of school when I was that age. Hopefully, our work this summer will help to bring some students back to Ogul Primary School.

Follow this link for more photos of Gulu and Ogul Primary School!

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Meeting with Ogul Primary School and the GDPU

Posted By Lauren Halloran (Uganda)

Posted Jun 7th, 2017

50 Comments

  • Talia

    June 7, 2017

     

    Lauren great use of collaboration to create a win-win situation for both yourself and the school. Also I agree accessible toilets will be this summers hottest trend!

  • Kate

    June 7, 2017

     

    How wonderful that the school has the support of both the teachers and the community! I’m sure that makes everybody’s jobs easier. Reusing the materials from the existing girls’ latrine is great for the budget and for the environment! It sounds like this community and GDPU have their minds in the right places, which is very good. Keep up the good work!

  • Natalie

    June 7, 2017

     

    Lauren, you have already accomplished so much! It sounds like you’re working with a wonderful group of people/community. I really think that this is an issue that more people should be aware of, because like you said you and I’m sure among many others were shy about using the bathroom in elementary school.

  • SweaterVest

    June 8, 2017

     

    Good Lord! I too had difficulty using the bathroom at a young age – not because shyness or cleanliness but because my mother told me if I used any toilet outside my room I’d get many disease on my privates. Fortunately, I was able to overcome. Always seek solace in the Lord during these trying times – remember Acts 9:32-10:23 (Cleanliness next to godliness). God smiles on those that do his work!

  • Iain Guest

    July 25, 2017

     

    Excellent summary of Ogul school and the challenges that you and GDPU face in the weeks to come. Good luck!

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