Boys at Eden II Primary school join Baskania Armitege, Rhino Camp Settlement Commandant to officially commission the latrine blocks for use. Photo credit:Oxfam

Building latrines for a healthy learning environment

Schools are supposed to be safe, friendly environments for children to learn. However, few schools in the refugee settlements of Rhino camp, Imvepi and Bidibidi in Arua and Yumbe Districts respectively, have latrines. Those with latrines are unisex, and also accommodate the teachers.

According to Achidri Stephen, headteacher of Eden 2 Primary School, the school did not have enough latrines to facilitate the 1,987 students but he is now more confident that he can address the issue of the increasing student numbers vis a vis the available facilities. This was the same case at Ariaze Primary School.

“Before the construction of the toilet facility, the only temporal latrine facility for the girls collapsed, and they didn't have anywhere to go. The option was either to use the bush or go home; and it got worse during their menstruation periods,” says Ogwal, “Due to lack of separate washrooms, they either used the teachers’ quarters or went home. As a result, every month, an adolescent girl would lose an average of four school days due to menstruation.”

“The situation is worse in the host communities. By the time the pupils reach Primary 5, in a class enrollment of 120, only 15 would attend fully up to Primary 7 due to the absence of the enabling environment for girls changing rooms,” he adds.  

To address this issue, Oxfam with funding from the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid, has constructed six latrine blocks in four schools in Rhino Camp settlement. The schools were identified after a needs-assessment was conducted. The schools include Ariaze Primary school, Ofua II Primary School (one girls’ block), Eden Primary School (two latrine blocks -boys and girls) and Yelulu Primary School (two blocks -boys and girls.)

The construction of latrines in these schools will reduce open defecation; the spread of diseases; environmental contamination and loss of dignity. “Oxfam works to save lives, promote human dignity, and increase resilience of refugees and host communities, women, girls, and boys, in the South Sudan Response,” said Joseph Okuda, Oxfam Emergency Response for Arua during the commissioning of two latrine blocks at Eden 2 Primary School.

“We were able to support the schools with -latrines and rain water harvesting tanks as a way of ensuring good health for the children,” he added.

 “Today, is the day we appreciate the short time it has taken to construct these latrines,” said Amitege Baskania, Rhino Camp Settlement Commandant. “We appreciate the European Union Humanitarian Aid department for funding this cause of providing proper sanitation and hygiene facilities, as well as Oxfam for spearheading the construction of these facilities.”

 Through funding from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO), Oxfam in Uganda is able to provide safe water, proper sanitation and hygiene measures, which are essential for survival and prevention of diseases.