Installing Accessible Toilets at Schools in Uganda
This startup supports a community-based response to one of Uganda’s most pressing problems – the lack of accessible water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services at primary schools. It was launched in 2015 by the Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU), an AP partner that works in the northern district of Gulu, scene of the brutal rebellion by the Lord’s Resistance Army (1995 to 2009).
Between 2015 and 2018 GDPU and AP installed accessible toilets at three remote schools in Gulu – Tochi, Ogul and Awach. Our monitoring at the end of 2018 found that the toilets had improved the lives of students, schools and communities. Bullying against students with disability had stopped. Hygiene had improved. Enrollment had risen. Parents were more engaged. What started in 2015 as a narrow project for students with disability has evolved into a broad strategy for creating a healthy, inclusive and tolerant environment for all students. Toilets offer a point of entry into the entire universe of a school.
In spite of this progress, much remains to be done. Only 14 of the 65 primary schools in Gulu District meet the government’s requirement of toilets per student (1:40), and most of the WASH facilities that do exist are in a deplorable condition. This poses a serious threat to the health of students and the quality of education. It also undermines Uganda’s proud claim to be providing universal primary education, and is at odds with at least three of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The startup addresses the WASH crisis on two levels. First, GDPU and AP will continue to invest in individual schools. In 2019 we hope to install toilets and hand-washing facilities at the Abaka School (408 students) which has two functioning toilets. The Abaka project will be supported by the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Dublin, Ohio – one of several communities in the US that have generously embraced this start-up.
Second, we will encourage the district government of Gulu to introduce GDPU’s model into more schools. The District Education Office (DEO) receives a tiny budget for school infrastructure and this limits the number of WASH projects it can fund. But the office has developed a strong partnership with GDPU and pledged to work with GDPU at the Abaka School in 2019. The office is also following GDPU’s lead when selecting school building projects. This is laying the foundation for the startup to be scaled if and when more money becomes available. In the meantime, GDPU will find other ways to use its WASH expertise and government contacts on behalf of marginalized people in Gulu. (March 2019)