Friday, May 14, 2010

Popping a Squat: Constructing a Latrine for Kids in Rural Uganda

It probably wasn't the safest idea to dig a deep hole in the middle of a school and not take any precautionary steps to safeguard it from children falling in. Nevertheless, it's the first stage in the construction of a new VIP latrine at the school where I worked at in Uganda.

After the new toilets were built, speculation arose amongst the student body over who would inaugurate the facilities first.  This documentary captures the excitement as the events unfold.  On the day of the grand opening the students put on a show for the community. The program was filled with music, dance, and drama with a health and sanitation theme.

This isn't the porta-potty you remember from summer camp.  It's a ten-stalled waste management system that will cater to over 1,000 school children and teachers daily for the next five years. I drew up this blueprint in case the need arises for you to build one of these structures at your own home.


My small friend gave me a tour of the existing school latrine.  It had been built eight years ago and all the traffic it's received has left the stalls messy.  It was clearly operating beyond capacity.  The pit had already filled up a year ago and the teachers would get sticks to compress the fecal matter back into the hole.  It was time for a new toilet.

Here's a picture from the new long-drop.  It's clean and inviting.  If something falls down that hole it will take a few moments before you hear the reassuring thump that it's hit the bottom.

The new toilets were built in the shade of an old tree.  The students found it to be an idyllic place to study and relax between classes.

These girls are on their lunch break.  There's probably bananas in those little red pales.  Since the construction of the new latrine, there has been a marked improvement in the school's overall cleanliness.  The girls can enjoy what they eat on the campus and stay healthy and happy.

The latrines were built with a small projects assistance grant from the Peace Corps and USAID.  If you'd like to know more about the specifications of the latrine and the background of the community where it was built, you can read the original proposal.

There has also been a push recently to introduce composting toilets in the developing world.  The waste is collected and used as fertilizer in gardens.