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%.
Peepoo School Programme
By providing a personal toilet that sanitises the faeces directly after use, Peepoo ensures a healthy, safe and clean sanitation solution in schools. Incidences of diarrhoea and other sanitation related diseases are substantially reduced and the children become better equipped to fulfil their potential in their education. The health of children is also improved through the ability to provide better meals in school when crops are grown using Peepoo as fertiliser.
In general, children are early adopters and contribute to a child-to-community process where knowledge about Peepoo, hygiene and sanitation is brought home to the family. Hence, the Peepoo solution in schools also functions as a promotional channel for the importance of sanitation and hygiene to the community at large. Therefore, a positive spiral for long-term poverty alleviation and gender equality can be established. Putting sanitation in place is key to making a society grow.
When Peepoo is introduced in a school, children and teachers receive comprehensive training in hygiene and hand-washing practices. Training varies slightly depending on the age group and often includes games and songs. For teenagers, the training includes life skills training coupled with information about menstruation and sex. Parents are also introduced to the Peepoo solution and how it also can be used as a home toilet in order to improve their home hygiene.
At each school. Peepoo cabins are built to provide privacy for the students and teachers. The cabins serve as soak pits with urinals for girls and boys. Peepoo is used inside the cabins with a specially designed seat called the Peepoo Kiti. When finished, the child ties Peepoo with a knot and puts it in a collection bucket. A hand-washing facility it set up outside the cabins.
In schools and day care centres with younger children, an attendant is hired in a supporting role. The attendant ensures that the children wash their hands properly and that the cabins are kept clean. To engage the youngest, there is also Peepoo Dubo. Dubo is a bear, an animal that children from different cultures and parts of the world can easily identify with. Dubo is the mascot of the Peepoo School Programme, and part of the training material
After use, Peepoo can be utilised as fertiliser and contribute to food security in schools. Crops can be planted with Peepoos following a sanitisation period of four weeks, either in bag gardens or directly in fields. Peepoos that are not utilised as fertiliser in school gardens can easily be collected and brought to a nearby Peepoople collection point.