Torn floors, broken latrines and untreated sewage: the conditions for children in the Angnoy and Bankauy primary schools near the Laotian capital Vientiane have become unbearable in recent years. Together with the partner organisation BORDA, Johanniter has built new sanitary facilities. They were inaugurated on 20 February.
More than 180 pupils and teachers now have separate and adequate toilets. New washing facilities with soap and running water are easily accessible for the children. In a tank behind the construction, the waste water is cleaned by a mechanical and biological process. Draining water is not anymore a health hazard for the pupils. For a long time it was different.
"We had regular cases of diarrhoea and fever," says Ondone Saimeezai. The 46-year-old man has been working as a teacher in his village of Bankauy since he was 17 years old. He also studied at Bankauy Primary School. For a long time they had only simple latrines that were not sufficient. Open defecation was a normal behaviour for many children. "Now we have real toilets. A new aspect is that there are separate areas for the girls and boys," emphasizes the teacher, who travelled to the inauguration at Angnoy School.
Teachers like Ondone will play an active role to improve hygiene in the future. He and other colleagues are involved in the respective school based sanitary committees. They will make sure that the waste water tanks work correctly and do not pose a risk to the children. The teachers will draw the children's attention to good behaviour in order to prevent hygiene-related illnesses or waterborne diseases. To make this possible, teachers and pupils were trained together by the BORDA team. A training session also took place shortly before the inauguration. Students showed each other how to wash their hands properly and how to take care for better hygiene.
"Despite limited financial resources, the project has a great impact", said Kerstin Tobie, the responsible representative from German embassy, to the participants during the ceremony. Two similar projects have already been implemented in recent years. The Embassy made financial resources available for this purpose. A previous evaluation after finishing one of those projects showed that all the children were washing their hands using soap and that they passed on the knowledge to their families and friends. Thus, the pupils become multipliers and improve the health of their entire community.