ACT marks World Toilet Day

by ACT

  • Posted on November 19, 2017

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Children at Nyezerera Primary School, Malawi

In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly officially designated November 19 as World Toilet Day.

World Toilet Day is about inspiring action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. Today, 4.5 billion people live without a household toilet that safely disposes of their waste.

The Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015, include a target to ensure everyone has access to a safely-managed household toilet by 2030.

African Child Trust is committed to making education available to children and young people in Africa, particularly for orphans and fatherless children who form a very vulnerable group. We believe that through education, even the most impoverished can climb the social ladder and break through the cycle of poverty. Our experience over nearly 20 years in eight Africa countries has confirmed this. On World Toilet Day, we are reminded that as a charity with education at its core, we face a major sanitation challenge if we are to tackle poverty and open the door to more African children to excel academically and achieve their potential in life.

In Africa today, as in many other parts of the world, education of children and young people is central in driving development and eradicating poverty. Health of children is significant for education to be meaningful. After all, how can you derive value from education if children are ill and unable to attend school?  This makes sanitation in school central to development and eradicating poverty.


In sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of people do not have access to clean water or modern sanitation facilities, including in schools. For girls the situation is worse.  How can girls be expected to grow and learn when at the same time a majority of them have no access to basic sanitation, even at school?

Nyezerera Primary School (NPS) is the feeder school for 16 villages in Phalombe District, south east Malawi at the border with Mozambique. In 2009, the school had 1,842 pupils (836 boys: 1006 girls) and 14 teachers.  The school had 16 pit latrines, 6 for boys (1 per 140) and 8 for girls (1 per 125). There are 2 units for the staff.  There was no running water or well in the school. This was a challenge that was contributing to the high dropout rate of girls from school. Less than 25% of girls completed primary school and less than 15% went on to secondary school.

With many of our sponsored children attending the school, in 2014 we adopted NPS for support as part of our community project with sanitation as a priority. We raised funds to build four decent toilet blocks, each with 4 separate toilets adding 16 toilet units to the school, 10 for girls and 6 for boys.  But by the time the new toilets were completed in 2016, the school pupil population had grown 40% to 3,087 (1,578 girls and 1,509 boys) with 30 teaching staff. The ratio of pupils per toilet improved, but only just (1 per 88 girls) and (1 per 125 boys). There is still no water at the school. This is our next focus along with additional toilets for the children, particularly girls.

New toilet blocks at Nyezerera Primary School, Malawi

Dignity for Girls

The Ulemu project is another ACT project that is tackling the issue of health and sanitation. Ulemu, meaning dignity in the Chichewa language, empowers nearly 2000 girls at NPS and the New Foundation Community Secondary School through health education and counselling in menstrual health hygiene and sanitation and provides re-useable sanitary pads so that they can remain in school during menstruation. The aim is to motivate the girls to continue with their studies and complete primary and secondary school education and go on to university or other higher institutions of learning.  We believe the project will stem the tide of young girls marrying young and raising children at a too-young age, likely extending the cycle of poverty instead of going to school and gaining skills which will benefit them and bring about development in their country.

Girls attending the menstrual health education and counselling programme, Malawi

There is still so much more we would like to do, but we can’t do this alone. We need help to build more toilet facilities and provide water to young people in schools in Africa. Can you join us?

To read more about out Dignity project in Malawi click here

To support a disadvantaged African child or orphan and help to transform their life, please click here

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