The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim for universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) and inclusive and effective learning environments for all.
Although significant progress has been made, millions of children still lack access to basic WaSH services at their schools. This is particularly pronounced for young girls and female adolescents who often miss school because of a lack of access to safe and improved facilities.
The “Keeping Girls in School through Improved Reproductive and Menstrual Health” project is an initiative under the Gender Action Platform program, which is supported by the Australian Government through the PNG-AUS Partnership. WaterAid, in partnership with Marie Stopes International, has established an integrated WaSH project that aims to increase school retention in young women through improving access to WaSH and sexual and reproductive health knowledge.
The SMEC Foundation contributed to the construction of new WaSH facilities at Tubuserea Upper Primary School in the Rigo District of PNG’s Central Province. The school currently has 359 students in grades 6-8 (178 male and 181 female), ranging in age from 14 to 19 years old. The previous facilities were inadequate for the students’ basic sanitation needs.
The upgraded facilities include seven new school VIP (Ventilated Improved Pit) latrine toilets - four for girls, including a menstrual hygiene friendly stall, with the remaining three latrines designated for the boys. Hand-washing facilities were also installed adjacent to the latrines. The water supply is derived from a 200 square metre roof catchment running into a 9000-litre water tank which fills to capacity with 45mm of rain, making the project sustainable and energy efficient.
Developed by WaterAid, the innovative toilet design - a dual pit, sliding Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrine - significantly increases the life of the toilet.
Additionally, WaterAid is assisting the school to establish a committee to manage the WaSH facilities so that they will continue to provide an ongoing benefit to the students.
The WaSH facilities are a particularly welcome addition to the school’s infrastructure.
A female grade seven student said is she is excited about the new toilets.
“I use the (old) toilet to change my pad but it isn’t comfortable. Most of the time I feel dirty. When I am at home I wash and change but I can’t do that when I am at school. Sometimes the (toilet’s) smell is really bad. Most of the time boys pee all over the place. I am excited about the new toilets. They have much more space.
Another student, Wari, commented, “I am excited about the new toilets being opened. They look better than the other ones, they have a big space, you can lock it by yourself, you don’t need anyone to be with you, it’s private.”
The late headmaster summed up the feelings of the teaching staff when he said:
“These toilets are really going to help our children. Having bad toilets is something that really obstructs the children from coming to class. When students have their period, they don’t come to school.
“Having these new toilets, they are very happy as they can comfortably use them. It is a really good idea to have toilets like this in the school and it will really help.”
- Papua New Guinea
Las Araucarias Preschool