Free at last!
Principal delighted that staff, students no longer have to use pit latrines
Principal of Hall’s Delight Primary School, Denise Dunchie, has heaped praises on the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture for providing her institution with state of-the-art restrooms.
The assistance ended what she said was a 28-year wait filled with broken promises of providing flush toilets at the St Andrew East Rural-based school.
“We were sceptical, because during my 28 years at this institution, I witnessed visitation from building officers, bidders and a number of others and heard these exact words, but they never materialised,” Dunchie said.
She was speaking inside the Hall’s Delight Methodist Church at the handover ceremony of school sanitation blocks and COVID-19 support supplies for both Hall’s Delight Primary and Westphalia Primary School.
The initiative is part of the Government of Jamaica and JSIF School Sanitation Project. So far 75 schools have benefited to the tune of $791 million with another 87 schools on the waiting list. The project for Hall’s Delight Primary and Westphalia Primary School cost $50 million.
Prior to the installation of modern restrooms, the bucket lifting to flush away waste was said to be depressing for younger students.
“Over the years, due to poor and inhumane bathroom facilities among other plant issues, our schools suffered grossly. Students and all members of staff had to lift buckets from the tanks to the bathroom at all times for flushing,” Dunchie said, adding that bathroom use was reserved for when it is very necessary.
Whenever they had interviews for teachers, panellists had to outline these major deficiencies.
“These conditions robbed us of our most important resources, our students. Some parents refused to send their children to our schools and started removing those who were enrolled,” Dunchie said.
Education Minister Fayval Williams, who delivered the main address, said that in 2021, no child should be using to a pit latrine.
“I would not have thought that in 2021, there were still schools with pit latrines until I looked at the data that I asked my technical persons to bring to me. We still have some 87 schools with pit latrines,” Williams said, of her aim to eradicate unsanitary conditions in schools.
Williams said the school sanitation project was in keeping with Government’s plans to improve the access of students in primary-level education institutions to adequate and suitable sanitation amenities.
Managing director of JSIF, Omar Sweeney, remarked that the facilities being handed over go far beyond the physical infrastructure.
HYGIENIC SANITARY SOLUTION
“This project will spare the children who are currently enrolled at these institutions and future generations will have sanitary solutions that are safer and more hygienic,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney said water sanitation and hygiene (wash) facilities at schools for students and teachers are of critical importance because they directly affect learning outcomes.
“The key components of both projects included the replacement of pit latrines with modern bathroom and toilet facilities, including features for the physically challenged. The construction of sewage-treatment systems to include septic tanks, reed beds, chlorination chambers and soak-away pits,” Sweeney said.
Capacity building training sessions in water, sanitation and hygiene for parents, teachers and students from the impacted schools were commissioned as part of the modernisation project.
This was held at the Iberostar hotel, St James, over four days.
“The training, when you switch from pit latrines to flush toilets, it is not intuitive for persons who use pit latrines all the time, to understand how to flush toilet… what you can throw in there, those sorts of things not intuitive for a person who has used pit latrines all their lives. We do have to train and sensitise them how to keep that area sanitary,” Sweeney said, of the importance of the training.
COVID-19 response equipment and supplies along with 11 tablets were also handed over to students from both schools.