July 13, 2015
Construction has been progressing at an astonishing pace! It seems like only yesterday I was watching a worker dig the pit, snapping a photo of him as he laughed, but today we just came back from a visit to Tochi and the entire structure of the toilet was staring me in the face! Now, the next challenge is going to be planning for the Open Day Event, keeping GDPU motivated, and ensuring the sustainability plan has legs.
This program is about more than just a toilet. We are trying to develop an inclusivity program, and despite the apathy I feel from some of the staff at Tochi, the head teacher Christine is keeping the ship on course. I am discovering through this project that the single most essential component, which will help determine whether or not it is successful, is the head teacher.
Meanwhile, GDPU is still spread out thin, trying to stay afloat after their major projects come to an end in a few months. Ojok Patrick has been visiting different parts of Uganda, working on various programs related to the Youth Development Program, so I have been training Ojok Simon on how to manage this project and all of its future iterations. He is a very capable individual. He was one of the many victims from the conflict and now lives with a disability. It is easy to forget he has a visual impairment, simply because of how great he works in the field.
I’ve also noticed that the School Management Committee has been visiting the construction site. I can tell because of the signatures in the contractor’s visitor book. This is great news because it means the community is taking an active role in the project; it means they are becoming invested in its success. We spoke previously with the School Management Committee and the Parent Teacher Association about creating a funding mechanism for maintaining the toilet. I’m optimistic that when we meet with them next, we will find out more details on how this plan has progressed.
In order to create the kind of social change that this program aims to achieve, we need to rally the school community around the ideas of sustaining this toilet as well as promoting inclusion and accessibility for all students. That’s why we are planning an awareness workshop, an art competition, a poetry recital, a drama, and a debate with the head teacher.
These activities are instrumental to engaging the students on the issues good hygiene, inclusion, and accessibility. I recently found out that the school has a terrible system for cleaning the latrines. They simply make the students who arrive late responsible for cleaning them. That kind of system makes cleaning the latrine a punishment rather than a responsibility.
After talking this over with Ojok Simon and the head teacher, we discussed how GDPU handles this issue with the students in their Youth Development Program as a model for the students in Tochi. At GDPU, the skills trainers organize students every morning and assign roles such as filling the jerry cans, cleaning the latrines, restocking supplies, sweeping the compound, etc.
We will create a similar system at Tochi. Each class will elect a prefect and will be assigned a responsibility for the day. The prefect will ensure his class carries out their responsibility and a supervising teacher will check to make sure everything is in order. If something is not done properly, the teacher will talk to the prefect and get that class to redo their role. If that doesn’t happen, then a new prefect will be elected until the responsibility is carried out.
These students may have a right to accessible latrines, but it is also their responsibility to maintain them. Without a better system for cleaning the latrines, this project won’t be sustainable and the toilet will quickly become unhygienic.
GDPU and the teachers will hold an awareness workshop to explain the importance of cleaning the toilets, and afterwards, we will engage the students with the art competition based on the theme of what good hygiene means to them. The teachers will judge this competition and award the winners with a prize as well as points towards winning a term’s worth of school fees after all the activities have taken place.
I’m excited to see how these activities play out. Hopefully we see the same kind of progress on the inclusion program that we have seen with construction.
Posted By Josh Levy
Posted Jul 15th, 2015