Scaling sanitation in schools: Sanergy’s partnership with the SWASH+ Consortium

Sanergy’s School WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) program aims to raise students’ awareness of the importance of hygienic sanitation. Over the last year, Sanergy has made good progress toward this goal, training teachers from 109 primary schools in the Mukuru and Kamukunji areas of Nairobi. Of these, 90 schools have now installed Fresh Life Toilets for their students.

In scaling our School WASH program, our goal has been to increase children’s accessibility to hygienic sanitation. To this end, Sanergy has collaborated with the SWASH+ Consortium.

Since 2006, the consortium has been one of the most important actors in the promotion of Kenyan School WASH programs. It comprises of Care International, Emory University’s Center for Global Safe Water, Professor Richard Muga of  Great Lakes University of Kisumu, and the Government of Kenya. One of the consortium’s core mandates is research and implementation of the WASH program in schools while evaluating its impact among students.

Since the beginning of this year, the consortium has been implementing phase two of its program aimed at developing and testing innovative school- and community‐based WASH interventions that promote sustainability and scalability; hence the collaboration with Sanergy.

Sanergy has provided all ten SWASH+ schools with five Fresh Life Toilets per school, an opportunity to try an alternative sanitation option and a positive example of promoting access to hygienic sanitation through public-private partnerships. “Schools’ awareness in matters WASH is critical. Instilling such awareness will ensure that quality assurance standards are maintained,” says Ms. Leah Rotich, Acting Secretary in the Ministry of Education.

Headteacher Salome Muigai with Emory's Mathew Freeman
Matthew Freeman of Emory University and Salome Muigai, head teacher of Nairobi South, use a hand washing station.

One of the beneficiaries of this program is Nairobi South Primary School. Established in 1954, Nairobi South is one of the largest public schools in the south of Nairobi, with 1,800 students currently enrolled.

Before Fresh Life, the school already provided adequate sanitation facilities for the students; there are 12 toilets – six designated for the girls and six for the boys. However, the school experiences recurring water outages, and these flush toilets often have to be emptied by hand.

Frequent blockages have been the biggest challenge with the current toilet facilities. “Sometimes girls throw sanitary towel wrappers in these toilets, oblivious of the consequences,” says teacher Anne Kamwange, who is in charge of the school’s Health Department.

The commissioning of five Fresh Life Toilets through the SWASH+ program was a welcome relief for the school. “Because of the limited number of Fresh Life Toilets, we made the decision to make them available only to the girls in upper classes – 508 students in total,” says Mrs. Salome Muigai, head teacher of Nairobi South Primary School.

Several students have complained about this restriction, saying they, too, want access to Fresh Life Toilets. “Generally, we have noticed that students prefer Fresh Life Toilets. They are familiar with the facilities, as the majority of our students live in Mukuru Kayaba, where Fresh Life has a strong presence. They are well aware of their benefits, including a hand washing stand, a mirror, and toilet paper,” says Anne.

Anne’s participation in Sanergy’s WASH training has helped her instill proper hygiene practices such as hand washing in the members of the school community. Together with her colleagues, they have set up four hand washing stations for the students. They are in the process of putting up additional stations to better serve the entire student population.

From these measures, they are already experiencing positive changes. “Although there is a lot more to be done, cases of absenteeism due to sicknesses such as diarrhea have reduced. In addition, our girls in upper classes do not stay home from school during their menses,” Mrs. Muigai grins.

The fact that the waste from the school’s Fresh Life Toilets is collected twice daily has been an added benefit for Mrs. Muigai: “We do not have to worry about intense maintenance and toilet blockages.”

In the near future, Mrs. Muigai hopes to install additional Fresh Life Toilets for boys and the younger students in pre-school.

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