Conclusion of Khnach Romeas Secondary School Water Project – Cambodia
This project has been completed under the direction of Peace Corps Volunteer Evalynn Romano. It was made possible through the partnership of Water Charity and the National Peace Corps Association.
This was a project under the LET GIRLS LEARN Program, a collaboration of First Lady Michelle Obama and the Peace Corps to expand access to education for adolescent girls around the world!
To read about the beginning of the project, CLICK HERE.
SCOPE OF PROJECT DESCRIPTION:
The Khnach Romeas Secondary School teaches 659 students in grades 7-9 and is the only secondary school in a rural commune of over 12,000 people. In regards to the latrine situation of the school, only two latrines were available for 659 students and one latrine for 35 teachers. The aim of the secondary school water project was to support the education of female students by constructing latrines specifically for the female students of the school population. Latrine construction has promising gains to deliver in terms of increased access to education for girls.
In addition, the water project aimed to implement a strategy for water supply, sanitation and hygiene by means of a well, a 3,000-liter water storage container and steel stand, hand washing station and the repair of two old latrines. Hand washing facilities as a complimentary measure to latrine construction mitigates the risk of contamination. The goal being to help the teachers and students, particularly female students, of the Khnach Romeas Secondary School gain access to water and sanitation. By providing a healthy school environment for the students through safe, clean latrines and water for hand washing, students will be able to spend more time learning at school and less time taking care of an illness at home.
SPECIFIC WORK COMPLETED:
Water Charity funded a 36-meter deep well with submersible motor pump, 3,000-liter water storage container and steel stand, hand washing station, the construction of two new latrines and the repair of two old latrines as well as piping from the well to the hand washing station and latrines.
An anonymous survey concerning the views studentshold of the school latrines was distributed before and after the completion of the project to the entire school population. Data was obtained, compared and analyzed only from the surveys completed by female students. To follow a sustainable approach that combines the promotion of behavior change and the provision of facilities, the secondary school teachers planned and organized school-wide hand washing education sessions in the duration of two days. The teachers have a background in participating in a hand washing education workshop provided by teachers from a local primary school and were already equipped with the knowledge of health educating students.
PROGRESSION OF PROJECT THROUGH EACH STAGE:
- 1. October 2015: The only well the school had ever owned was a well with a manual rope and bucket device that was hand dug in the 1990s. The project began with the excavation of a well. The inability to reach water is often a concern in the Khnach Romeas commune. However, the local well specialist was able to reach plenty of water by 36 meters and a submersible motor pump was inserted. This marked the first time the Khnach Romeas Secondary School achieved an uncontaminated, dependable water source in the 37-year history of the school. Due to the newfound water source, the school is able to maintain a clean and beautiful school environment by washing school grounds and watering plants growing in the front yard of the school. Sellers on school grounds also have access to the water source. The availability of water allows sellers to sell snacks and drinks to students in a hygienic and sanitary way.
- October 2015: A 3-meter steel stand was constructed to support the 3,000-liter water storage container, which was installed and connected to the well through piping allowing water to be pumped from the well to the container for easy storage. Before the installation of the 3,000-liter water storage container, the main method of water storage was rainwater catchment jars. Water stored in jars is prone to contamination from outside sources.
Furthermore, a lack of water in the jars often leads to cracking and damage, allowing for additional contamination.
- October 2015: A survey with questions regarding the current latrine situation at the school was distributed to the entire school population before the construction and repair of latrines. The students were asked to include their sex, but not their name to ensure confidentiality as well as honest answers.Only surveys from female students were analyzed.
The survey included questions such as:
- Do you use the latrines at school? Why or why not?
- Do you feel comfortable using the latrines at school? Why or why not?
- Would you feel more comfortable if there were latrines for only girls and latrines for only boys?
- Have you ever left school during school hours to use latrines outside of school?
- Do you think it is important to have latrines at school?
The results of surveys from 351 female students showed:
- 54% do not use the latrines at school for reasons such as the latrines are dirty, not hygienic, smells bad, a
lack of water, too many students for too few latrines and both sexes using the same latrines.
- 60% do not feel comfortable using the latrines at school for reasons such as the latrines are dirty, not
hygienic, smells bad, a lack of water, too many students for too few latrines, both sexes using the same
latrines, latrine door does not have a bolt and students like to walk along the path outside of the latrines.
- 99% would feel more comfortable if there were latrines only for girls and latrines only for boys.
- 88% have never left school during school hours to use latrines outside of school for reasons such as school rules do not allow for it, never left school during school hours, too scared, too difficult, other places are too far, even latrines outside of school are not hygienic and takes time away from studies.
- 99% think it is important to have latrines at school.
- November 2015: The students of the Khnach Romeas Secondary School began a school vegetable garden, in which students were able to take fresh vegetables from the school to their homes for vitamin-rich meals. In 2012, an international NGO provided the school with training on methods and practices to follow in growing vegetable gardens. However, it was during a time the school did not possess a water source that was able to support a garden. The water source now allows students the abilities and skills to grow vegetables.
- December 2015: The construction of the hand washing station and two new latrines began. Due to the limited amount of space in the latrine area of the school, it was decided that the two new latrines would be included in the hand washing station area. This groundwork plan meant the two latrines would be less exposed to the public and busy paths in comparison to the existing latrines allowing for comfort and privacy for female students. The area would also include the existing water storage structure, which water is pumped into for the latrines, in order for the structure to be covered and protected by the same roof. The roof protects the area from the weather elements such as sun, rain and wind allowing the hand washing station and latrines to stay well functioning for a longer period of time. The area also includes a wire fence with a padlock in order to protect the area during times in which class is not in session, such as lunch breaks, holidays and school vacations. Students not under the supervision of school staff have the potential to damage the hand washing station and latrines, take the soap provided or abuse the availability of the water.
- January 2016: The Khnach Romeas Secondary School director and three teachers participated in a workshop in which all schools in the commune were in attendance. The workshop focused on effective methods of teaching students information on germs, illnesses and proper hand washing. In addition, the workshop allowed teachers from the different schools to discuss problems regarding water, hygiene and sanitation at their own school and brainstorm solutions for their particular situation. The workshop was lead by the Kors Ream Primary School (a school previously funded by Water Charity] director and two teachers who have experience in attending hand washing workshops lead by an international NGO and organizing health education sessions for their students.
- February 2016: A formal clean up schedule for the latrines and the hand washing station was created and approved by the school director. Starting this month, a clean up schedule will be posted at the hand washing station as a reminder to students and staff in order to keep the area clean and sanitary. Furthermore, the Khnach Romeas Secondary School will begin to ask for a portion of funds to be used to purchase cleaning supplies and hand soap for the hand washing station when formulating a budget to present to the Ministry of Education. In addition, the Khnach Romeas Secondary School has appointed a teacher to fill the role as lead on health-related activities performed at the school.
- 8. February 2016: Two existing latrines that were padlocked and had not been in use for over five years were repaired. Due to the lack of water before the project, the school did not have enough water to maintain the latrines, which lead to unsanitary latrines that became nonfunctioning over time. The latrines were not only repaired, but also lightly renovated with paint, tiling and the damaged roof was replaced to protect the latrines from rainwater
- 9. February 2016: A concern that male students were not using the hand washing station due to believing the area was solely for female students was brought up. The school director addressed the issue over an announcement at the morning flag ceremony in order for students to clearly understand that though the new latrines are for the female students, the hand washing station is for the entire school population to use. As a Community Health Education Volunteer at the Khnach Romeas Health Center, the Peace Corps Volunteer has noticed that female secondary school students no longer visit the health center, which is located next to the secondary school, to use the latrines.
- February 2016: A clear gender separation of latrines was enforced. Two new latrines funded by an outside donor have also been recently built. These new latrines as well as the two newly repaired latrines are for the male students. One existing latrine is designated for the teachers. Two existing latrines and the two newly built latrines are for the female students. This organizes the latrine area so that the four latrines for males are on one side, the four latrines for females are on the other side and the one latrine for teachers are in the middle. The separation of latrines based on gender is a new concept for the school and is highly supported by the school director, teachers and students.
- February 2016: Colorful murals of germs and the steps for hand washing were painted inside the hand washing station in order to create appeal for the students to use the recently built water resources as well as to be used as visual reminders for students to wash their hands. Members of the Khnach Romeas Secondary School became an integral part of the mural project. The hand washing station became not only a place of hygiene and sanitation, but also a place of creativity. In addition, the hand washing station quickly became a social area for students, especially female students, to spend their school breaks between classes.
- March 2016: The topic of hand washing is not a topic that teachers think to teach due to the fact that it is not a formal education subject in schools. For the first time, the Khnach Romeas Secondary School implemented hand washing education to reach the entire student population. Three secondary school teachers, who attended the hand washing education workshop, organized and executed two days of hand washing education sessions. Grade levels were divided among the three teachers and the duration of education for each class period was one hour.
The teachers taught about germs (i.e. what they are, how they spread, illnesses they cause etc.], when to wash hands (before, during and after certain activities] and the steps of proper hand washing. A variety of activities were used during the hand washing education sessions such as using baby powder to represent germs and to illustrate the spread of germs as well as allowing students to draw germs based on their imagination. A demonstration of the steps of proper hand washing was also included and students were able to practice these hand washing techniques in their new hand washing station. The teachers used teaching methods that made students laugh and enjoy learning about hand washing education. 499 out of 665 students were educated on hand washing. The upcoming Khmer New Year in April caused the low attendance rate as students begin to stop their studies by late March.
- March 2016: A survey with questions regarding the current latrine situation at the school was distributed to the entire school population five weeks after the construction and repair of latrines. The students were asked to include their sex, but not their name to ensure confidentiality as well as honest answers. Only surveys from female students were analyzed.
The survey included questions such as:
- Since the construction and repair of latrines at school, do you use the latrines at school more than you did before?
- Do you feel more comfortable using the latrines at school now than you did before the construction and repair of latrines? Why or why not?
- Since the construction and repair of latrines for only girls and latrines for only boys at school, do you feel more comfortable using the latrines at school?
- Since the construction and repair of latrines at school, have you left school to use a latrine outside of school? Do you think it is important to have latrines at school?
The results of surveys from 312 female students showed:
- 88% use the latrines at school more than they did before. 4% use the latrines at school less than they did
- before. 8% use the latrines at school the same as they did before.
- 98% feel more comfortable using the latrines at school now than they did before for reasons such as
- latrines are now more hygienic, cleaner, no bad smell, have enough water and soap, have a place to wash
- hands, separated by gender and students no longer have to leave school to use a latrine.
- 99% feel more comfortable using the latrines at school now that there are latrines for only girls and
- latrines for only boys for reasons such as there is no mixing of boys and girls when using latrines, not
- disorderly, more hygienic, safe, private and no longer have feelings of shame or shyness.
- 93% have not left school to use a latrine outside of school since the construction and repair of latrines at
- 97% think it is important to have latrines at school.
In comparison to the results from the survey distributed in October, these findings reveal a significant change in feelings towards the new latrine situation due to the water project. 88% of the female student population has used the latrines at school more than they did before the construction and repair of latrines. In addition, 98% feel more comfortable using the latrines now than they did before and 99% feel more comfortable after the separation of latrines based on gender. There is an increase by 5% of female students who have not left school to use a latrine outside of school grounds. Lastly, feelings of latrine importance slightly decreased.
For the first time, the Khnach Romeas Secondary School owns an uncontaminated and dependable water source with a motor pump system that allows water to be pumped into the hand washing station and latrines, creating a school environment that is hygienic and sanitary for the students. The school now possesses a total of nine functional latrines (two of which are from outside donors] in comparison to the three latrines before the initiation of the water project.
The water project has allowed for many positive changes at the school including the gender separation of latrines. This separation allows female students to comfortably use latrines on school grounds, promoting their education by avoiding travels to different locations for latrines and being absent from class as a result. In addition, a hand washing facility supports the education of all students by helping to prevent the spread of germs and mitigating poor school attendance from illnesses.
The provision of water resources has enabled the secondary school teachers to promote and implement hand washing education in their school, which had never been achieved before. A holistic approach that combines the promotion of behavior change and the provision of facilities will lead to a sustainable outcome for the secondary school.
The Peace Corps Volunteer’s Khmer counterpart whom she worked closely with in the full duration of the project, Mr. Sovattanak Koeurg, is a well-respected teacher at the Khnach Romeas Secondary School. This will ensure further sustainability of the project long after the end of her Peace Corps service as he is familiar with the physical structures and educational aspects of the project and can personally manage each area.
REACTIONS AND QUOTES:
I am happy, excited and satisfied with this project. Even schools in the city do not have beautiful hand washing stations like the one we have. — Mr. Sereyvuth Tiep, Khnach Romeas Secondary School Director
Whenever I walk into the hand washing station I think about how it is so modern for a school in a rural community surrounded by rice fields. — Mr. Sovattanak Koeurng, Project Counterpart and Khnach Romeas Secondary School Teacher
We are grateful to Evalynn for completing this excellent project.