High School Latrine Project – South Africa
This project is made possible through the partnership of WATER CHARITY and the NATIONAL PEACE CORPS ASSOCIATION.
This project has been completed. To read about the conclusion, CLICK HERE.
Xxxxx Village, Mtubatuba Municipality, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa
Xxxxx is a semi-rural village that borders the Isimangaliso World Heritage Site near St. Lucia, Kwa-Zulu Natal. There are approximately 10,000 residents living in the (most of Zulu descent) according to the 2011 South African Government Census with an average household size of 4.3 members. Census data puts unemployment for the municipal area around 40%, while the rate is likely much higher within Xxxxx.
In spite of the abject poverty that is quite obvious in the community, Xxxxx is a peaceful village to live in. Many village members work in the nearby town of St. Lucia performing various duties to serve the incoming tourist population. Others find work in the town of Mtubatuba, or informally through manual labor projects in the village.
Like many rural areas in the country, the people in Xxxxx are personable, quick to befriend outsiders, and easy to get along with. In their free time most people meet up to chat with one another and spend time together. Maintaining social relationships is a very important quality within Zulu culture so it’s quite common to see groups of 2 or more sitting under a shady tree talking and sharing a bottle of soda together as you walk through the village.
The high school in Xxxxx Village, called Silethukukhanya, has a student population of approximately 1,000 and 39 staff including teachers. The school’s female restrooms, in particular, have fallen into severe disrepair.
The latrine block was built in 2005 and the toilets themselves, which are pit-style, have since become quite full, leading to foul smells perforating throughout the immediate area. In addition, the foundation of the latrine block has started forming large cracks, possibly on account of poor initial construction when the foundation was laid. There are also no hand basins for washing up, mirrors, or changing rooms in the building. Furthermore, there’s no electricity to the building nor is it easily accessible for those with physical disabilities.
The result of all these issues is an undignified restroom and hygiene experience for the females at the school, which has further unintended ramifications on morale and academic performance.
This project aims to construct a new and fully functional female latrine block at Silethukukhanya High School in Xxxxx Village.
The latrine block will consist of four pit toilets and one extra-spacious toilet with hand rails for the physically disabled, three changing rooms, three sinks for hand washing with mirrors, a ramp for easier handicap access, and a wall around the entrance of the latrine block for privacy. Electricity and overhead lighting will also be installed for night use since many of the learners have extra classes in the evenings.
Two highly-experienced builders in Xxxxx Village have been identified to perform the work, along with several bricklayers and an electrician. Construction of the latrine block will begin with clearing a large site adjacent to the current latrine block. The pits for the five toilets will then be dug and the building’s foundation laid after that. All of the construction materials will be sourced from the nearby town of Mtubatuba, which has several hardware stores.
In addition to the construction of the latrine block, the PCV has been working with the school’s principal and teachers to identify a group of female students who come from severely disadvantaged backgrounds within the village. An after-school club with the girls will be formed to teach them about topics related to the female body, including puberty and feminine hygiene practices while segueing into other pertinent topics, including teen pregnancy and STIs. Two Child and Youth Care
Workers from the village have volunteered to facilitate the club, while donations of sanitary pads have already been made by a separate organization.
Overall, the community has been very active in this project, with teachers encouraging learners to participate in the club, care workers and volunteer guest speakers offering to speak to the girls, and members of the community offering to help with the construction of the latrine block once it commences.
575 people will benefit from the project, including female learners and staff, with many more in the future as students continue to cycle through the school.
Peace Corps Volunteer Directing Project
Monitoring and Maintenance
The builders of the latrine block have estimated the life span of the pit toilets to be 10 years before they fill up, but this is able to be extended through use of chemicals that help decompose the waste.
The latrines themselves will be cleaned and looked after by the janitorial workers at the school while future repair and upkeep costs will be furnished by the school as needed (with the repair work to be carried out by the builders constructing the latrines).
The fact that the toilets are pit-style increases their sustainability drastically as plumbing costs are kept to a minimum and water is not needed to flush the waste. Furthermore, the latrine block is to be constructed in such a way that promotes a large amount of natural ventilation when wind is present in the air, with a large number of overhead wind ducts.
Regarding the girls club, the knowledge passed on from the lessons will ideally be self-sustaining in that the girls will be encouraged to share the information that they learn with their siblings and peers, while also carrying it with them as they grow and have families of their own, some possibly remaining in the village.
Let Girls Learn
This project is expected to greatly benefit female learners, both directly and indirectly. The girls at the high school will have a much more dignified experience as they use the restroom, which will likely have a positive effect on their overall morale, especially as it translates to their academics. The girls will also no longer have to go into the forest to change clothes for sports days, drama rehearsals, and other events.
Also, an increase in hygienic practices (through the installation of sinks for hand washing) is reasonably expected to reduce the spread of illness and thus decrease sick days for the girls. Furthermore, grade 11 and 12 students are required to attend night classes, but in the past it has been difficult for them to use the latrine at night because of a lack of lighting, which will no longer be an issue for them.
The funds for this project have been provided by an anonymous donor.
If you like this project, please donate to Water Charity, so that we will be able to continue to do great projects in South Africa.
This project has been completed under the direction of Peace Corps Volunteer Jason Jones. To read about the start of the project, CLICK HERE.
Scope of the Project
The scope of this project was to construct a girls latrine equipped with five pit-style toilets, three changing rooms and two basins at the site of the local high school in Khula Village, Mtubatuba Municipality, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. Prior to building the latrine the girls were forced to relieve themselves in the nearby forest or to use the old latrine at the school that was full, foul smelling, crumbling at the foundation and without doors. Work on the new building commenced in November, 2017 and was successfully completed on January 19th, 2018.
In addition to the building, an afterschool girls club was formed in October, 2017 to coincide with the construction and help empower a group of 30 at-risk girls at the high school as identified by the school principal and educators.
Specific Work that was Done
The new latrine took 11 weeks to complete, about twice as long as our initial estimates due to weather-related delays and unforeseen issues involving materials, labor and machine rental. A two-meter (six foot) pit was dug for the toilets and is expected to last ten or more years before filling up (depending on the amount of non-fecal matter (i.e. rubbish) that enters the toilets). A concrete foundation was then laid over the wall of the pit and concrete blocks were used to erect the building. The building is 6.5m wide x 8m long.
After erecting the outer walls, the inside walls were constructed to provide for five toilets and three changing rooms. A cement structure was then built inside of the latrine to act as a permanent trash bin for rubbish disposal. After this the walls were plastered and painted and the five toilet pedestals, two basins and five mirrors were put in place. Electricity and plumbing installation also followed after that. Work on the latrine was completed on January 19th, 2018.
Regarding the afterschool girls club, a group of approximately 30 girls met every Wednesday and Friday for 1.5 hours after school from October to December, 2017. The club was facilitated by two South African government-certified Child and Youth Care Workers in our village and frequently featured guest speakers from the community to come and talk to the girls. The girls group discussed different topics ranging from academics to girls empowerment, but the focus of the club was on feminine hygiene and the female body (due to the high prevalence of HIV, teen pregnancy, and various diseases in the village these topics were also incorporated in some of the lessons).
How the Work Progressed Through Each Stage
Construction of the latrines started in November as we hired a tractor to clear the site where the building would be located. There was a mis-communication with the tractor owner as to how long we would have the machine for, but that was eventually solved and the site was cleared and the pit dug. After that the builders got to work erecting cement blocks to encase the pit and prevent the surrounding sand from collapsing in. Wooden planks were then put over the walled pit for support and the building’s foundation laid on top of that at ground level. This all took about two and a half weeks.
After that the building itself was erected with cement blocks which took another two weeks. The inner walls were then erected to divide the space for five toilets and three changing rooms. After this, the roof was put on, the cement trash bin was built and electricity was installed in the building. The walls were then plastered, which took one week, and the fixtures were installed (sinks, mirrors, doors and toilet pedestals). Finally, the plumbing and painting was done for the building.
The End Result
Through every stage of construction, the builders and I were focused on one thing: longevity. Our aim from the onset of the project was to build a durable structure that would withstand abuse in worst case scenarios. We knew that the building would be very strong because the builders had a lot of experience, the materials were of high quality, and extra time was being taken at each stage to avoid mistakes. Therefore, our main concern became the mitigation of vandalism. During the 11 weeks of construction alone, the school was vandalized three times, in which two electrical boxes and one faucet tap were stolen. For this reason, we purposely sourced durable but non-luxurious items for our fixtures. The sinks, taps, mirrors and lights all have minimal physical appeal and aftermarket value.
We also put in the cement trash bin as previously mentioned (which is big enough to house a removable bin), so learners will be discouraged from putting trash into the pit itself which is expected to greatly increase the life of the toilets. For the electricity and plumbing, all wiring and pipes were placed underground to the extent possible. We also encouraged the principal to place someone in charge of opening and locking the door to the latrine every day at appropriate times, particularly at night. It’s not possible to predict if and when things will get vandalized or misused but in the end the builders and I felt that we had done what we could to maximize the life of the building. We are therefore confident that the new latrine will go on to benefit thousands of students and staff for 10+ years to come.
Comments from the Community
The community has expressed their gratitude a number of times for the project. The principal, school governing body, South African Department of Education, ward councillor (local government official), school staff, students, and parents have all shared with us their love for the work being done. At the unveiling of the building on January 22nd one of the local newspapers came out to write an article on and take photos of the handover.
A number of community members volunteered their time to make this project a reality, as well as their own tools and even some of their materials. Wheelbarrows, shovels, extra hands to help paint, free rides to and from, guest speakers, miscellaneous building materials, free food and drinks are just some of the ways we were supported throughout the project.
On behalf of the entire community in Khula Village Averill we would like to say Siyabonga Kakhulu(!) which means thank you very much in isiZulu!
We extend our thanks to Jason for completing this important project.