Sanitation in Schools

Sanergy team members James Mbugua and Peter Macharia instructing Baptist Primary School teachers and students in proper Fresh Life Toilet use.

The global sanitation crisis is frightening when it comes to kids. 1.6 million children die each year from diarrheal-related disease – 27,400 in Kenya alone.i This is higher than the number of deaths caused by AIDS, malaria and TB combined. According to the World Bank, 54% of international variation across height for under-developed children can be attributed to a lack of hygienic sanitation.ii This last stat is stunning. Basically, it doesn’t matter how developed the country where a child grows up is; it’s just whether or not you have access to hygienic sanitation that largely determines that child’s growth.

Children are also strong ambassadors for change in their communities. They are impressionable and keen to learn. They influence their parents’ decision-making by taking the lessons they’ve learnt at school back home. Stevens Group Academy of Schools principal Margaret purchased a Fresh Life Toilet for her students last year, and we have provided her students with extensive training. Margaret told us, “One of my young students asked her parents why the family does not wash their hands before eating meals. As a result the family now washes their hands before eating together.” We want to bring more students like this one into our network of sanitation ambassadors.

Sanergy teaching students how to thoroughly wash their hands after using the bathroom.
Sanergy teaching students how to thoroughly wash their hands after using the bathroom.

In November, we wrote about our amazing Fresh Life Operator, Jackline Mogoi, and our effort to deliver hygienic sanitation in schools. Since then, we’ve made some incredible progress – largely thanks to a great partnership with Oxfam. We are in the midst of opening up 38 sanitation facilities across 15 schools in Mukuru and thereby reaching 2000 kids every single day.

We know that it’s not just enough to provide sanitation – that’s been the downfall of many well-intentioned sanitation projects. Instead, we focus on three key aspects:

1. Training of students and teachers. We work closely with WASH United and local youth organizations to develop curricula that appeals to kids, and just as importantly, ensure that the students and teachers are trained multiple times over the course of the year.

2. Sustainability for the future. Schools do not get sanitation for free. Each school we work with proves its commitment to investing in sanitation for their students by making a significant down payment before we construct, as well as make contributions for ongoing sanitation services – hand-washing facilities, toilet paper, and waste collection services.

3. 24/7 sanitation for kids. It’s great to provide hygienic sanitation during the school day, but we want to make sure kids have access when they are at home too. To that end, it’s critical to engage parents in the process too. So far, this has come through a variety of ways, most notably several parents serving as the caretakers of the Fresh Life Toilets at their child’s school.

This is just the beginning. There’s a long way to go and we’re keen to work with great partners to scale this up to change the future of our kids for the better, forever.

Peter, James, and Baptist Primary School students celebrating the opening of their Fresh Life Toilets.
Peter, James, and Baptist Primary School students celebrating the opening of their Fresh Life Toilets.


iWaterAid (2012) Hygiene framework. WaterAid, London, UK. + World Health Organization, ‘Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-water: 2010 Update’, 2010.
iiSpears, Dean. How Much International Variation in Child Height Can Sanitation Explain?, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 6351, February 2013

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