Girls drop out of school over sharing pit-latrine with boys

Tuesday March 20 2018

Facility. Pupils ease themselves in pit-latrines at a school in Luuka District. Girls at Angweta Primary School share a pit-latrine with boys. FILE PHOTO

OYAM. Teachers at Angweta Primary School in Oyam District have said many girls dropped out of school because they were uncomfortable sharing the school’s only pit-latrine with their male classmates.
“The school does not have enough pit-latrines and as a result sometimes boys share with girls. This is making some girls in upper primary to drop out of school because they feel embarrassed,” Ms Norah Alum, a senior woman teacher, said.

The pupils have a number of times requested the school authorities to construct a separate pit-latrine for boys and they are yet to get a response.
“There are no washrooms for the girls, so those in their monthly menstruation periods do not come to school because of fear and this is a very serious problem which is affecting girl-child education,” Ms Alum added.

The school, however, blames the parents and government for failing to build an extra pit-latrine for the learners.
Angweta is one of the remote government-aided primary schools in Iceme Sub-county.
With an enrolment of 1,077 pupils, the school has only five but dilapidated classroom blocks, according to Ms Alum.

According to the teachers, pupils in lower classes either study under trees or in some of the roofless structures which acted as learning centres during the height of the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency in the area.

In an effort to expose Angweta’s problems, Foundation for Inclusive Community Help (FICH), a community based organisation in partnership with American NGO, Peace Corps Uganda, on March 15 held Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) Day at the school. “This school in a remote area has a number of challenges, but the pupils are trying their level best to study under such unbearable situation. This is evident by the high enrolment,” FICH’s executive director, Mr Emmy Okello Zoomlamai, said.

“We also want to encourage them to embrace the reading culture that is why we marked the DEAR day here,” he added.
Ms Haley Block, an Agribusiness advisor at Peace Corps, said the DEAR day sends a powerful message about the importance of literacy and education.


The education ministry guideline
In a circular by the permanent secretary ministry of Education and Sports to the Chief Administrative Officer and Town Clerks, parents, old girls/boys and local leaders were encouraged to go to the schools of their choice and read with learners on the DEAR Day and encouraged them not only to read, but also venture into writing articles and books.

In 2015, the Ministry of Education issued a guideline on menstrual hygiene management in schools. All schools are by the guidelines required to construct water tanks and changing rooms as part of the government efforts to ensure proper good menstrual hygiene management at schools.

The menstrual hygiene guidelines issues by Education Ministry also require schools to provide wrappers, sanitary towels as well as pain killer for girls who may need them during school hours.
As the statement rightly pointed out, menstrual management is a key issue that affects the retention and performance of girls in schools.

For instance, the ministry noted that traditionally, menstruating women and girls are wrongly considered to be ‘contaminated, dirty and impure’. As a result, girls suffer stigma due to, among others, lack of materials for managing menstrual hygiene; absence of private space and washrooms; and inappropriate facilities for disposal of used materials, physical and psychological pains during menstrual periods.”