Clean toilets and the importance of raising awareness

With support from Plan International Vietnam, students and teachers of a primary school in Ha Giang province now have access to clean water from a new water system, and have gained useful knowledge in sanitation.

In 2006, a primary school in Tu Nhan commune was spaciously built with 2 floors to serve 84 pupils, of which 42 are females.

“More than 10 years working for the school, water shortage and having no toilet was a nightmare for both teachers and students. Whenever we had a visitor, we had to climb down to the stream to take a bucket of water. Students always looked soiled,” said Ms. Nga, 42, the Deputy Head Master of the primary school.

A new water system for children

Aware of the urgent need to improve the water conditions, Plan International Vietnam decided to support the school with a toilet and a water system. After 4 months, the construction finished coupled with praise and happiness from 10 teachers, 84 pupils and 14 households nearby. They could not believe that the water could travel up to the school, which was located on a hill. 

We are more than happy. We can play as much as we want, as we have water to clean our faces and our hands.

However, after 2 weeks of construction, the water system was stuck. The water tanks had dried up, meaning teachers were forced to travel back down to the hill to collect water once more. 

Without clean water, the toilet conditions became worse.

“We immediately informed Plan International. Thang, Ha Giang Programme Unit Manager together with Kien, his staff, came right after that. By their own expertise, they found out the water system was stuck because of the falling leaves. It meant we would need to keep the system clean.”, shared Mr. Dinh, head of the village.

“We then assigned people to take turns cleaning the system and the water tanks. Even now, the system was stuck again but we can now fix it ourselves. The water system is ours. We should not rely on Plan International,” added Mr Dinh.

Enhancing the awareness

The story doesn’t end there. The water system was fixed, and the students were able to use the toilet again.

Nevertheless, only a week after the repairs, the toilet started to clog. The children were familiar with defecation in the open and using notebook paper (not proper toilet paper) to clean themseleves.

“I felt so emotional. The children are from poor families. They had no idea how to use the toilet in the right way. We asked all students to line up in front of the toilet so that we could demonstrate the different steps. We warned them to put used paper in the provided basket, and taught them how to flush. The situation is getting better,” said Ms. Nga, a local teacher. 

Now, students, teachers and parents of the primary school are full of joys. After a few months, they have learnt so many new things.

“We remind each other not to tend the cattle in the water source. We take turns cleaning the water system. Our children ask us to clean their hands after using the toilet. Many families have started to build proper toilets. Thank you Plan International,” shared Mr. Dinh.