Koshalai Primary School was founded in 2012 to strengthen education to unlock the potential in the neglected Koshalai village (Busia, Kenya), an area which has been locked out of development for years. Every year as the rainy season arrives, the River Koshalai sweeps away everything lying near which has led to irrecoverable losses in the area.
In Koshalai Primary, the FINISH team met Caleb Otaru, a young enthusiastic head teacher. In May 2018, the Nambale area MP through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) had supported several schools with funding for improving sanitation, of which Caleb was involved with. Koshalai Primary had just one latrine that served all pupils and teachers. With the access to funding, the CDF office was able to connect the head teachers with the FINISH in Kenya (INK) project, supporting Caleb’s quest to create a conducive learning experience.
Caleb contacted a Nyota Youth Group for interlocking bricks and toilet masonry services. Nyota is one of the many youth groups supported by FINISH INK to set up a sanitation business, empowering youths who were initially jobless. Within two weeks, Koshalai emerged as the first school to complete a project under that phase of Nambale CDF funding while matching the funding with desired workmanship. Through its field officers, FINISH INK was able to offer technical support right from the beginning.
Like other schools, the school had been funded to construct a four-door latrine but they managed to construct five. Out of the five, one was reserved for the ECDE leaders, two for girls and two for boys. At least that little shame of boys, girls and teachers sharing one block of pit latrine had been temporarily addressed.
Along the way, Caleb realized that the pupils take more time going to the river every morning to fetch water for cleaning the classrooms and pit latrines, which had become a point of attraction from the neighbouring households and schools. So, he embarked on a mission to fundraise for a shallow well and a hand pump. Meanwhile, he was also following through on a rural electrification project.
A year later, we visited the school and to our dismay, “kwa ground things are different” as a Kenyan would put it.
The area was unrecognizable; we were confronted with the sight of a busy water pump in the school field— surrounded by villages who have come for their daily dose of clean water. Notwithstanding, the school now has two latrines and an additional three-door latrine. Caleb has won a grant for the ECDE pit latrines from the County Government of Busia.
Koshalai Primary is a public school, and there are many hurdles Caleb must jump to be able to find funding and implement changes. He believes that education is a collaborative responsibility though, and as he yearns for good results from teachers and pupils, he must also create the best teaching and learning environment. He believes it is his role to keep pounding on the doors of the relevant offices for their [financial] support.
Caleb ends his tour with us by greatly thanking the area Member of Parliament, Mr. John Bunyasi for the CDF’s immense support on the school’s infrastructure. More importantly, he thanks the CDF for their outstanding support towards improvement of school sanitation in the entire constituency.
Benefits of Improved Sanitation in Schools
Caleb believes that improved sanitation in the schools comes with increased concentration of the learners in the school to instilling good hygiene behaviours to children which are eventually passed on to the parents back at home. With improved sanitation and hygiene in the schools, the diarrheal cases tend to reduce, while school attendance rates remain outstanding. In the near future the attractive latrine may lure more pupils into his school.
We notice a spirit of change that is unstoppable despite the many challenges impeding the quest for closing up on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Alongside many (inter)national heroes, we celebrate Caleb on World Toilet Day for his unquenched thirst for universal access to institutional sanitation. Most importantly, he is helping others to recognize that improved sanitation is an essential prerequisite for conducive learning and improved academic performance. Caleb’s journey exemplifies the efficacy of a holistic approach to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) development for sustainable achievements.
Happy International World Toilet Day!
Written by: Technical Adviser FINISH in Kenya, Charles Were