Agnam Tonguel School Water Project – Senegal
Agnam Tonguel, Podor District, Saint Louis Region, Senegal
The community, Agnam Tonguel, in Senegal consists of about 1,500-2,000 people. The population is entirely Muslim and the majority speak Pulaar du Nord, with some families more comfortable speaking in the national language, Wolof. There is an elementary and middle school, but high school students must travel 8 km east to Taredji for school. The national school system is taught entirely in French, with students starting off school with no knowledge of the language. Although daunting and a difficult challenge, kids in the community love attending school.
After eating breakfast, they are off to school for the morning sessions. At 11 am, they break, play games with their friends, and perhaps grab a snack from one of the mothers who has set up shop outside the classrooms, while the teachers relax under a tree. Then, after another lesson, the kids return home for lunch — a shared bowl of rice, fish, and vegetables grown in the women’s community garden.
The girls may be expected to help out pulling water from the well (used for drinking, bathing, and cooking) before returning to their afternoon sessions at school.
The elementary school director approached the PCV with a request to build latrines at the school. Currently, there are two bathroom stalls and although well taken care of, they are over 15 years old. The village’s population has grown over the years, and thus, the director explained, two stalls are not enough for the number of students at the school. There is no running water at the school and no materials are available for hand washing (soap, kettles, etc.). Students pull water from the well within the school’s compound.
In collaboration with the school director and school board president, and affordable project proposal was developed to address these hygiene issues. Hand washing without soap is the accepted technique in Senegal. Before every mealtime, mothers remind their children to wash their hands. However, the mothers complain that soap is expensive and handwashing with soap will require more water, and they will have to pull water more often.
This project is for the construction of two additional bathroom stalls at Agnam Tonguel’s elementary school. The bathrooms will be built with cement-sand-mixture bricks, as is typical for the region. They will be equipped with a tin roof, locks, and Turkish toilets. Local men will provide skilled labor. The school is providing sand, gravel, and cash, which was budgeted from the students’ inscription fees, to contribute 25% of the costs.
Agnam Tonguel has a hardware store and building supply store, which will provide most of the materials. Anything additional can be purchased in the nearby town of Ndioum, about 16 km east. To reinforce the new rule that all students must wash their hands after using the toilet, each classroom will be equipped with a hand-washing station (kettle, bucket, and soap). This way, the teachers will be able to monitor the students’ behavior, whereas a sink by the bathroom could be easily ignored. Addressing the hand-washing issue with a policy at the school will be an incredible teaching moment for the students. Regardless of the use of soap within their families, they will soon learn that it is unacceptable to use the toilet and not wash with soap. This sort of learned behavior can potentially follow them home and affect their behavior for the rest of their lives.
The school director and the PCV have already talked with the teachers about the new hand-washing policy, and it will start as soon as the materials are bought. As additional reminders of healthy practices, the teachers and the PCV will paint murals in the vicinity of the classrooms and bathroom.
The project serves 11 teachers, 1 school administrator, and over 300 students, ranging in ages from 6-13 years, for a total of about 330 people now, and all future students and faculty as well.
Peace Corps Volunteer Directing Project
Monitoring and Maintenance
When the hand-washing materials arrive, teachers will be expected to enforce — and they themselves partake in the new hand-washing policy. They are expected to know the 5 critical times of hand-washing: after using the toilet, before eating, before cooking, after cleaning your child’s rear, and when you are around a sick individual. The students will be observed during class to confirm that they are requiring students to wash with soap after using the bathroom. Teachers will also help design, and paint health-related murals around the school. The school will be responsible for the upkeep, and maintenance of the new facilities.
While this is not an official Let Girls Learn project, it does fall into Water Charity’s LGL+ grouping of projects that have a pronounced element involving helping girls go to, and stay in, school.
Buba Gueye, the primary school director, is a very well educated man and a native of Agnam Tonguel. While he worked as a teacher in Senegal, he would put his name into a lottery each year, asking that he return to Agnam; the Senegalese government places teachers and administration into schools. Often, teachers do not speak the local language of their students. Eventually, he was able to return as the school’s director and he has been there now for almost 15 years.
The PCV reports that his eldest daughter is currently finishing up her high school studies in Dakar and he is encouraging her to continue to university (he’s hoping for a lawyer!). It’s been an incredible pleasure working with Buba Gueye, and to witness his charisma among the teachers. The school is kept pristine, and often it is Buba himself, giving his time and money to better the school.
This past year, he installed a pulley at the well so it would be easier for the smaller kids to pull water. Also, he planted a garden of aloe and a mango tree at the school, which the students take, turns watering each day.
Dollar Amount of Project
Amount Received to Date
Dollar Amount Needed
$0 – This project has been fully funded through the generosity of friends and family of Peace Corps Volunteer Jillian McIntosh, with the help of an anonymous donor. Additional donations will go to other projects in Senegal.
This project has been completed. To read about the conclusion, CLICK HERE.