Garda Third World Fund - New Toilets at Malama Basic School

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Christmas 2016 was a very memorable one for Malama Basic School in Southern Province, Zambia. They heard the wonderful news just before Christmas that their school had received a grant from An Garda Síochana Third World Fund for construction of two new double pit latrines for their school. This was incredible news for the school which is situated in a very deprived part of Pemba District. It is attended by a total of 820 children aged 7 to 16 years, 485 boys and 335 girls and it employs 18 teachers.

The local people have great difficulty making ends meet. While they are very generous with their time and labour, they are not able to contribute financially to the well-being of the school. Overcrowding and lack of basic facilities leads to many problems, the most serious being difficulty controlling spread of infection and related health risks due to insanitary conditions. Prior to construction of the new toilets, there were only two latrines. A single pit latrine was used by the girls and a double pit latrine (2 holes) was shared by the boys and the teachers (both male and female). The old latrines were structurally substandard and dilapidated and had no roofs. Privacy was also a problem, particularly in the boys’ toilets, which are also shared by male and female teachers.

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Construction of the toilets started in mid-January 2017. The underground pits were dug but the rainy season arrived and work had to be stalled as the pits filled with rainwater. Any building materials which had been bought were secured until work recommenced at the end of April. It was hoped that the project would be completed by mid May. Although the builder was slow and did not finish the building work until the 26th June, the standard of the work was very good. There was an official opening on 26th June where the children sang and danced and the Parent Teacher Association joined in the celebrations. Inflation in Zambia is a bit of a problem with prices increasing on a regular basis and this caused some concern at times throughout the project. However, the project was completed almost on budget and the small shortfall (approx. €30) was paid by the School Parent Teacher Association.

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The new toilets are being used by children in Grades 1, 2, 3 and 4. The children are very happy with their new toilets and queues are very much reduced. Absenteeism in Grades 1 to 4 has reduced by 89% and morale among staff and children has improved greatly. Hygiene conditions are much better and the children suffer less infections as a result. The new toilets are well ventilated and can be cleaned so they do not experience the odour problem which exists in the older toilets. The children often comment on how they now enjoy using the toilets because they no longer have to tolerate the bad smell and dirty conditions.

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The recommended ratio of latrines to pupils is 1:20 so ideally there should be 21 double pit (i.e. 42 holes) latrines to satisfactorily cater for the children and teachers at this school. Toilet accommodation at the school remains inadequate. However, the provision of 2 double pit latrines has greatly relieved the situation at the school. The surrounding communities are delighted with the improvements in the school and they have promised to keep watch to ensure that the toilets are not vandalised. A wheelbarrow and shovels which were bought for the building work now remain the property of the school and they have proved invaluable for carrying out gardening chores and generally keeping the school grounds tidy. The staff and children are extremely grateful to An Garda Siochana Third World Fund for funding this project which has greatly improved conditions in their school.

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