Access to toilets restores the dignity and safety of students at Undugu School
The Undugu Society of Kenya, founded by Arnold Grol in 1973, advocates for and promotes community empowerment and, in particular, the empowerment of street children through rehabilitation, non-formal education, and training. This is done at the Basic Education Unit located in Nairobi’s Majengo area. Currently, there are 180 pupils in the program, the majority of whom are former street children from the neighboring towns of Mathare, Kitui, Majengo, and Kiambiu. They are some of the most vulnerable residents of their communities, and while they receive education, vocational training, and mentoring at the Basic Education Unit, the lack of toilets at the school had negatively impacted the students.
“It was difficult and risky to operate this institution without toilets. Our pupils would cross over dangerous, traffic-filled roads without speed bumps to access public toilets at Gikomba market. Speeding vehicles struck several students, and some pupils were victims of sexual violence while on their way to the toilets,” recalls Mr. Oyombera, one of the school’s head teachers.
Students like Denis remember vividly what happened when they had to find sanitation alternatives. “My friends and I used to relieve ourselves along the banks of Nairobi River. One time, my friend accidentally pushed me, and I toppled into the river. Luckily, traders at the Gikomba market came to my rescue,” he says.
The school’s management had to introduce a counseling program to help the affected students. Mr. Oyombera, troubled by the situation facing his students, searched for a lasting solution.
The Tushikane Women Group at Majengo, upon hearing about the students’ plight, resolved to help. Mary Nduko, one of the group’s members, had attended a seminar held by the Fresh Life team to introduce the Fresh Life Toilet.
She shared the information from the seminar with her colleagues, who were determined to help the troubled school. In January this year, the Basic Education Unit launched four Fresh Life Toilets for the trainees to use.
“Since installation of the Fresh Life Toilets, we have restored the dignity and confidence of our students,” Oyombera says.
Today, students love their experience: “I am happy I now have a safe space to do my ‘business,’ particularly during my menses. We have a tool kit provided that helps us safely dispose of sanitary towels,” beams Irene Muthoni.
Mr. Oyombera appreciates the Fresh Life support he receives on a regular basis. “The team consistently trains our pupils on proper toilet use,” he says. In addition, the area Field Officer Brenda Mwelu always has tips to ensure the toilets remain clean and hygienic.
During the recent cholera outbreak, during which the school lost one pupil, the continuous training and hygiene support they received from the Fresh Life team, including hand washing practices, significantly helped the school control the spread of the disease.
Mr. Oyombera is proud of the progress this institution has made in terms of sanitation and safety among students. He looks forward to a lasting and fruitful partnership with Sanergy, particularly in ensuring that overall sanitation in the institution is improved and that his students have internalized the hand washing practice.
We are delighted to support Mr. Oyombera and the Tushikane Women Group in promoting sanitation and hygiene at Undugu Society of Kenya!