Classroom in Mkindo primary school, Tanzania
‘The best thing about school is that it sets me apart from others who don’t go to school…education is important and will help me later in life.’ Shedrack aged 12.
The children in standard four are surging forward, standing on tables and desperately waving their hands in the air. They are shouting random letters of the alphabet at us to guess a WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) themed word in a game of hangman. This level of excitement is what we have been met with in every WASH lesson we have so far delivered. Although it may be the novelty of having guest teachers, much of their education seems to be met this way.
Our project at Mkindo Primary School Tanzania is WASH focussed. As it stands, there are four door-less drop holes for the 948 students plus teachers, so our main aim is to construct a new toilet block for the pupils. To make our facilities sustainable, and further reduce disease, it is important to also change attitudes. This means we spend a lot of time at the school, and encounter the students a great deal. We deliver WASH lessons and have reformed the SWASH club (water, sanitation and hygiene in schools) to better equip the school. Shedrack is a member of the SWASH club and states, ‘I am very excited to be a SWASH club member. I will advise my friends to flush the toilet and wash their hands.’ During our time here we have consistently been met with this level of enthusiasm, both to our project and to school itself.
Moses leads the SWASH club in constructing a tippy tap at the school, the first time they have somewhere to wash their hands.
Moses, aged 14 says, ‘I love school, I hope to get an education and that will help me to run different projects when I leave school’. As well as the dilapidated toilet block, Mkindo primary has very few facilities. There are five indoor and two outdoor classrooms. Two offices for teachers and supplies make up the buildings. The uniform consists of a white shirt, often startlingly white, and navy shorts for boys, navy skirts for girls. Although as clean as possible, many of the shirts are torn and shorts or skirts are missing their fastenings and held together with safety pins. A number of students don’t have shoes. Some children carry school bags, although they do not have much in them. Others carry plastic bags in which they put a notebook and a pencil. The classes are made up of 80-100 pupils which is perhaps why discipline is so important. The use of corporal punishment is permitted and liberally used.
Madam Mwajuma Msuya, a teacher at Mkindo
Madam Mwajuma Msuya has been teaching at Mkindo for three years now. She is very excited to see us at the school as she doesn’t think the current situation, particularly in terms of sanitation, is suitable. ‘Children get diseases from germs in the toilets…the standard is not good and they smell.’ She hopes that the introduction of new toilets will ‘encourage students to attend school more regularly. At the moment, there is low motivation to go to school.’ We too hope that our project can improve attendance and motivation regarding school. The aim of the project is to make school a more comfortable and safer environment for the pupils.
In the meantime, however, the pupils still seem keen to learn. Kadija explains, ‘I love school. My favourite subjects are drawing, Swahili and Maths…I want to be a secondary school teacher when I grow up’. Even with so little, the pupils of Mkindo have been so welcoming to us, and so attentive. Kadija tells us, ‘I will teach all my friends what you have taught me.’
Answering questions in class