Her parents reside at Longuo B, near Mwenge University College on the suburbs of Moshi municipality. Every month, Norah fails to attend school for about four days, complaining that she is sick. Two weeks ago, her class teacher (a woman) took the trouble to inquire from Norah as to why she was skipping classes.
The girl is a top performer. Norah explained why and the teacher then discovered that it was not only Norah who was skipping classes for a few days every month. Other girls at the school were not attending classes throughout the term simply because the school lacks toilets and the girls find it difficult to cope at school with nowhere clean and private to change their sanitary ware during their monthly menstruation.
The lack of and poor state of sanitation facilities in schools is one of the major factors that affect girls’ attendance at school especially in the rural areas. Easy access to clean water reduces time lost in searching for water and in turn increases more study time for girls. The lack of hygienic facilities that provide a certain degree of privacy psychologically affects teenage girls.
Research and practical experience illustrate the link between sanitation, health and education. Easy to access clean water and hygienic toilet facilities at schools lead to happier girls who are willing to learn. However, as it is with the case for Norah, sanitation facilities in many Tanzanian schools are lacking and the situation calls for alternative cost-effective solutions. Ten years ago, under the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (MKUKUTA) two main targets were set for schools sanitation.
The first was that all schools should be equipped with latrines or toilets by 2010. The second was that the ratio of users for each toilet or latrine should be 20 girls or 25 boys per latrine. To date, this ratio has not improved much as girls are still disadvantaged by the lack of latrines at schools. Each school is expected to establish a school sanitation committee which can be formed from an existing school committee.
The committee is expected to mobilise resources from within the community for the purpose of constructing and maintaining the toilets. The subsequent design of the school latrines/toilets (in case there are none) should take into account factors such as access to water, construction costs, cultural sanitation behaviours, availability of construction material and maintenance. The establishment of school sanitation clubs will educate school children on hygiene and health so as to ensure sustainability.
The government has launched a 4-year national sanitation and hygiene campaign that will cost 20m USD (over 25bn/-). Financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB), 1.3 million households and 700 schools will have toilet facilities. The Acting Director of Prevention Services at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Mr Elias Chinamo, says that first year of the campaign will cover 42 districts in 12 regions.
The regions include Dodoma, Iringa, Rukwa, Mtwara, Mara, Kigoma, Coast, Arusha, Manyara, Tanga, Kagera and Tabora. In the first year of implementation (2011/12), 100,000 households are targeted to achieve improved sanitation and 88 schools are targeted to have a ratio of 40 girls and 50 boys per drop hole. “It is estimated that each drop hole will cost 400 USD while another 100 USD will be used for supervision and monitoring, bringing the total cost of per drop hole to 500 USD”, he explains.
Each toilet facility will have 20 drop holes. Mr Chinamo, who is also the Assistant Director of Environmental Health at the ministry, adds that 100,000 households will be covered in the first year (at the cost of 1m USD), 300,000 in the second year (3m USD), 500,000 households in the third year (5m USD) and 400,000 households in the fourth year. According to him, poor sanitation costs Tanzania 301bn/- each year, equivalent to 206m USD.
This is equivalent to 5 USD per person in Tanzania per year. The figure of US$206 million is likely to underestimate the true cost of the current sanitation situation in Tanzania because other costs such as burial costs and water pollution have not been included. He states that 26 million Tanzanians use unsanitary latrines while 5.4 million people have no latrine at all and defecate in the open. Open defecation costs Tanzania 46m USD, yet eliminating the practice requires one million latrines to be built. Mr Chinamo also notes that 60 to 80 per cent of the diseases in Tanzania are caused by the lack of safe water and poor sanitary practices.