Nkhulambe Primary School is located in Nkhulambe Village, Group Village Headman Nkhulambe, Traditional Authority Nkhulambe in Phalombe district. The school has 3000 learners of which 55 percent are girls. For decades, the school has been operating with the same pit latrine structures that were constructed together with the rest of the school structures over 20 years ago despite the ever-raising enrollment rates. In around 2018, most of the pit latrine rooms got heavily damaged during a stormy weather as some latrines were also already full. This affected proper hygiene management as the school especially for girls who had to share just one latrine room despite their age differences and the high learner population at the school.
“Adolescent girls who require special rooms separate from the younger girls were heavily affected with the insufficiency of the latrine rooms as some of them resorted to going home during classes to comfortably get relieved or changed and usually never come back to class… This problem contributed to absconding classes especially among adolescent girls,” narrated Charles Ganiza, Head Teacher of the school. According to Ganiza, some girls could even go to some nearby bushes or farms to respond to the call of nature. Such was the situation at the school for about three years.
Charles Tcholani, chairperson of the School Management Committee (SMC) echoed the Head Teacher’s words by asserting that adolescent girls were the most affected by the insufficient latrine situation. “The toilets that we had were not enough for the 3000 learners, and not ideal for girls.” Tholani added. According to Tcholani, the SMC and other community structures for the school had no idea on how to handle the situation because it was regarded as a government’s responsibility. This mindset changed in 2021, thanks to the Girls Get Equal (Nzotheka) project’s intervention through Creative Centre for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM).
Hastings Mleso, Secretary for the ‘Safe School Committee’ at the school explained that representatives from the SMC, Parents Teachers Association (PTA), Mother Group, chiefs, teachers and other community stakeholders were invited to an orientation by CRECCOM under GGE project where they got trained to be proactive in mobilizing community members towards creation of a conducive learning environment. “The GGE orientation geared us up to change our mindset and start brainstorming the way forward to the latrine problem. The safe school committee was formed and we also formed a special committee to lead resource mobilization activities for the construction of new latrines,” Mleso explained.
Through the leadership of the resource mobilization committee, the people in Nkhulambe contributed money and labor force to mold bricks and buy construction materials for the new latrines. Construction thereof was done between January and March 2022. Apart from improving hygiene at the school in general, the new latrines brought a sign of relief to the learners, especially the adolescent girls. One of the girls at the school, a 15-year-old Anna John, who is in Standard 6, testified that the new latrines have helped her and fellow girls to stay in school always as there is now no excuse to go home or to abscond from classes, unlike the case before the construction of the new change rooms.
“These days, I can stay at the school campus for as long as I want because whenever I feel the need to relieve myself, the new latrine rooms are just a few steps away. As such I do spend my time even in the library to read without rushing home…,” Anna added.