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Improved sanitation keeps more girls in school in Malawi
DOWA, Malawi, 11 September 2008 – Eveless Mayenje purposefully walks to class, knowing that she only has two terms before she goes to secondary school. At 18, she is much older than most of her classmates in the eighth grade. This does not in any way daunt her, as she is focused on staying in school.
School has not always been enjoyable, though. Two years ago, Eveless had to drop out. When she reached puberty the school environment no longer offered her the protection and facilities she needed, such a separate latrines for girls.
“I decided to drop out. When I told my elder sister, she laughed and told me that school is for boys and girls are for marriage,” she explains.
Two years at home did not change anything for Eveless. Her two sisters, who had dropped out of school to get married, came back home poorer than they had left. For Eveless, the only way out of poverty was to go to school so she could fulfil her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse.
The outreach activity by the Kawale Primary School sanitation club gave her an opportunity to resume her education.
“When we visit communities, we provide information on good hygiene and sanitation methods. Most villagers do not know the link between disease and poor hygienic methods,” noted the patron of the club, Alfred Mazibuko. Members of the sanitation club, who are pupils at the school, also impart this knowledge to fellow students during the morning assembly once a month.
It was through the club that Eveless realized Kawale Primary School now had separate toilets for boys and girls, courtesy of UNICEF.
Conducive to learning
This initiative was carried out under the 'child-friendly schools' package, a UNICEF intervention intended to create an environment that is conducive to learning in all respects.
Kawale Primary School was provided with a water point and 10 toilets for both girlas and boys. As soon as these were built, a substantial rise in girls’ enrolment was noted – up from 355 in 2007 to 404 in 2008.
This new, friendly learning environment will perhaps help Eveless realize her ambition to become not only a nurse, but also the first woman from her family to graduate from college.