A major reason that many girls do not finish schools located in urban slums or informal settlements can be directly traced to the lack of toilets. In these environments, many schools lack toilets all together. The small number of toilets that may be available are often very dirty and overfull. This leaves children with few, if any, options for defecating out in the open during school hours. At the least, this results in a loss of time away from lessons for students. In the worst cases, the incidence of rapes can become an everyday occurrence.
Loss of School Days
In a typical primary school in the world’s slums, the state of the sanitary facilities and the level of the children’s hygiene are poor. Often hundreds of children have to share single pit latrines. The floors are covered with fresh faeces and are wet with urine. Children without shoes are left with no option but to stand barefoot in this mess to relieve themselves. Boys and girls are forced by circumstances to share a toilet or use adjacent latrines. What’s more, there are no cleaning products such as disinfectants, hand-washing facilities, running water or toilet paper.
In an atmosphere of poor health, children are unable to fulfil their education potential. Each year, children lose 272 million school days due to diarrhoea and other related diseases caused by lack of water, sanitation and hygiene. In the developing world, an estimated 47% of children between the ages of five and nine years old are infested with three main types of soil-transmitted worms: hookworm, roundworm or whipworm. The most significant risk of hookworm infestation is anaemia. In children, anaemia can lead to developmental and behavioural disturbances that can diminish their ability to learn. The total time for schooling lost to worm-related absenteeism amounts to more than 200 million years; almost all of this loss occurs in low- and middle-income countries.
For girls, the situation is even more severe, especially when the are approaching puberty. About one in 10 school-age girls do not attend school during menstruation, or they drop out at puberty because of a lack of clean and private sanitation facilities. A lack of towels is also another reason why girls miss school during their menstrual days
Women who have been to school are less likely to die during childbirth. Each additional year of education is estimated to prevent two maternal deaths for every 1,000 women. Research also shows that for every 10% increase in female literacy, a country’s economy can grow by 0.3%.
Peepoople in Schools
Peepoo ensures a healthy, safe and clean sanitation solution in schools and day-care centers by providing a personal toilet supplemented by hygiene promotion and health education for teachers and students. Peepoople’s thought process has ensured that no water is used while using Peepoo and very little water is used for anal cleansing in communities where that is a hygiene practise. This ensures that diseases are unlikely to be spread from one host to the other. This also helps save precious water supplies.
In schools, Peepoos are distributed for free to the children, and are initially financed by the parents of the schools or the teachers themselves. In the long run, the value of the increased yield from the school gardens can potentially finance the Peepoo sanitation solution. As a result, the system may become self-sustainable and the schools less dependent on donors. Most sales for schools are completed with a “Pay After Use Method” which means that payment is only required for the exact number of Peepoos that have been used.
Because Peepoo inactivates all pathogens in the faeces, a closed loop system that contributes to food security is also followed, where used Peepoos serve as a source of valuable fertiliser in school kitchen gardens or bag gardens. In schools that lack space for gardens, Peepoos are brought to a drop-point for a refund.
Peepoo in schools can also be a key factor for initiating change by helping to develop useful lifeskills on health and hygiene. Children are often eager to learn and willing to absorb new ideas and new hygiene behaviour learned at school can lead to life-long positive habits. Because children are generally early adopters of new technology, school projects contribute to the “Child-to-Community” (CTC) process where children educate themselves at school while they are playing. They can also educate children at other schools who are their neighbours, as well as their brothers and sisters and older family members by bringing knowledge of Peepoo, health and hygiene home with them. This helps in replicating information from one source to another. It is also more cost-effective to work with children in school-based programmes.
A Closed Loop System
When setting up a school or day-care centre project, small Peepoo cabins are built on the school’s premises to provide privacy for the students and teachers. The cabins serve as soak pits with urinals for girls and boys. A soak pit, also known as a soakaway or leach pit, is a covered, porous-walled chamber that allows water to slowly soak into the ground. Children are instructed to urinate in the soak pit and then use Peepoo for defecation, thus keeping the cabins clean and hygienic. If washing facilities are lacking, a hand washing unit is installed.
Within the schools, teachers are educated in why and how to use Peepoo, the operation and maintance of the soak pits as well as hygiene and health promotion in general. This includes, among others, recommended hand washing practices with soap, oral hygiene, environmental hygiene and teaching the ecological sanitation concept and how to best use Peepoos as fertiliser to increase yields. As additional support to teachers, Peepoople has developed instruction manuals with prepared lesson plans to help with the flow of information from teacher to student.
Attendants at each school oversee the Peepoo cabins, and if the children are small, they also assist them in using Peepoo if needed. Because life-based skills are taught to teachers, who then teach the students, this leads to the formation of active environmental clubs. In these clubs, children of different ages also cooperate in the planting, tending and harvesting of food grown in the school gardens, thus making the use of Peepoo a broader educational tool. Initially, Peepoople is also working with the schools to grow vegetables such as kale in sacks or gardens with used Peepoos serving as fertiliser.
As part of every school project, parents also receive training in the importance of hygiene and how Peepoo can improve health. There is also a kit that helps in monitoring and evaluation to determine whether the shared information reaches home. Peepoople are also helping children form school hygiene clubs to encourage the pupils to become responsible for their own hygiene and encourage child-to-child education on the use of Peepoo and the benefits of hygiene.
Schools in Kibera
In Kibera, Kenya, many schools do not have enough toilets to meet the daily sanitation needs of students and teachers, and some do not have any toilets at all.
In response to this situation, Peepoople Kenya began a school project in an area called Gatwekera where Peepoos were given to students for free. In the spring of 2011, a school with more than 1,000 students of different ages and ethnic backgrounds in the Silanga Village of Kibera, began buying Peepoos. From the beginning of 2012, Peepoople Kenya is serving more than a dozen schools and day-care centers, with an estimate of more than 2,000 students in total.
The system is now running by itself. The children use Peepoos and then store them in a bucket. A hand washing facility is installed and the children wash their hands with soap and water after using the toilet. Schools that are near the drop-point drop off their used Peepoos directly. Those that are not make arrangements with collectors from the Peepoo drop-points.