On the blog

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Lifting the lid: the story behind the loos at Bukeno School

At Toilet Twinning we love to hear about toilets. New toilets, old toilets, in homes, schools, at work, pretty much anywhere. We just love toilets.

But hang on a second – what about the people who use those toilets? Don’t we care about them too? Don’t we want to know more than just where they go to the loo?

The answer, of course, is a resounding yes! Earlier this year staff from one of Toilet Twinning’s founder charities – Cord  went to Burundi to see the impact that their work is having and to meet some lovely loo users.

One visit took them to Bukeno School in Giharo province of Burundi The school had some things we would expect – latrines, water, teachers and students aplenty, but was without others – namely electricity.

The teachers at Bukeno School are (from left to right) Elie Ntakiyiruta (age 33), Evangeline Niyonsaba (age 22), Ferdenand Nibitanga (age 25) and Emmanuelie Niyingarukiye (age 28).

These teachers live at least a five-hour walk away from the school. To increase staff recruitment and retention, an on-site house has been built by Cord for teachers to live in during the week. Teachers now just make their 20-km journeys home at the weekend, leaving on Saturday morning and returning the following day.

Unfortunately, as the school building and teachers’ house are without electricity (as are three other schools in the area), the day has to end when the sun goes down (around 7pm), leaving little time for marking papers or planning lessons!

Worryingly, although the school does have toilet blocks and a water source, their supply is sometimes disrupted by a neighbour. If this happens teachers collect water from a spring located a mile away. However, a longer term solution to this problem is needed and the teachers are planning advocacy for the school and greater political action to ensure the water supply.

While the students seem to be enjoying their school, a local council leader and the teachers believe that things could be improved further, whether by installing solar power or building a football ground.

It’s clear that the school is looking ahead, choosing to focus on what it can do and the positive impact it can have.