Construction of New Toilets at Chitaotao Primary School:A Beacon of Hope for Keeping Girls in School
Chitawotawo Primary School is one of the schools under Nazombe zone in Phalombe district and it is located in Mbedza village, Group Village Headman Makhonja, Traditional Authority Nazombe. Ground water level in the area is very shallow and this poses a great challenge to construction projects. Many of the buildings within and around the school collapsed due to flooding and it is a worse scenario when it comes to pit-latrine toilets. For over three years, Chitaotao Primary School has been an unsafe learning environment for learners because the school never had enough toilets following the collapsing of latrines in 2019. This forced learners to do open defecation in nearby bushes thereby compromising hygiene standards at the school and endangering the health of the learners. However, Girls Get Equal (GGE) project’s intervention in 2022 triggered the community to collectively act on the problem.
SMC chair, Innocent Binito (left) at the old toilet structures that collapsed at Chitaotawo Primary School
“We [the School Management Committee] together with members of Mother Group, PTA and teachers were sensitized by CRECCOM to collaborate in making sure that our school is safe for the learners,” narrated Innocent Binito who is the chairperson of the School Management Committee (SMC). “We were invited by CRECCOM to a two-days training in July 2021. We were told that we ought to be proactive when it comes to improving the school environment… on the issue of the toilets, CRECCOM assured us that if we can do our part in molding bricks and mobilizing other resources within our affordability, the GGE project can support us with other materials,” Binito added. The sensitization meeting became a wakeup call for the community structures and they went on to mobilize community members towards construction of new toilets.
“We managed to gather quarry, sand, and molded 15 thousand bricks for the project… on the other hand, GGE supported us with cement, wires, iron sheets, door frames, lime and doors. Right now, the construction is underway and we are using contributions from community members to raise funds for paying wages of the builders,” Binito explained. Although the construction is not yet complete, it has become a beacon of hope for the learners and the teachers at the school. The materials like cement and concrete are so vital to deal with the ground water level challenge when constructing the latrines and the foundations of the rooms thereof.
According to one of the learners at the school, 14-year-old Regina Mede who is in Standard 7, the toilets will reduce cases of poor hygiene-related diseases among her fellow learners. “We have many cases of diarrhea among us the learners due to poor hygiene caused by lack of toilets but we are hoping that such cases will reduce when the construction of the toilets is complete” explained Regina. According to one of the teachers at the school Mr. Costa Mkweza who teaches Standard 7, GGE has cemented a good relation between the school staff and the community through the community structures that were oriented by CRECCOM. “The two-days training that we got from GGE has helped us to be proactive and progressive when it comes to school governance in ensuring that a safe learning environment for girls is maintained,” Mkweza concluded.