Thursday, March 16, 2017

Banana Tsa Mo Kakang!

I’m really excited to announce that we’ve completed our secondary project!

The new toilets on the left next to the original ones on the right.  


Sekonyela High School has around 480 students for the 2017 school year, of which, around 290 are female.  Originally there were 5 toilets for all females on campus, that’s 1 toilet for every 58 females.  

During our morning break, the lines to the toilets would fill up quickly.  It would often take up the entire break just to use the facilities.  Because of this, the girls would walk down the adjacent hill and go outside in the elements. 

That village you see in the distance is Ha Ramoruti.  They were tired of the mess caused by the girls.  They wrote two letters of complaint to the school over the past year.  Both times actions were taken by the school but things eventually returned to the way they were.  

Having only 5 toilets was just not a sustainable solution.  The girls didn’t have enough time during break.  Judging the conditions of the toilets it’s difficult to blame them for not wanting to use them.  

Here a girl waits outside the toilets with a pad in hand.  


The local Popa community, my counterpart Ntate Mothibeli, and myself decided the best solution was to build new toilets.  Digging the pit is one of the most expensive parts of the process because of the shallow depth of the topsoil.  Digging a deep hole almost always means rock needs to be removed.  I drew up a design that would use a slightly larger pit and toilets on both sides to reduce the size of the overall structure, require only one hole to be dug, and hopefully reduce the project costs.  

As you can see above, the footprint of the new 10 toilet structure is not much larger than the original 5 toilet design.  

The grant requires that the community contribute at least 25% of the total cost of the project.  By using voluntary labor from the community, we saved costs in labor.  The school provided the workers meals for their efforts.  This mutual effort from a local company and community workers helped create some capacity building through skills training for the volunteers, a very important impact in an area with low opportunity.  

I gave some of the girls a tour a few weeks back to show them the progress.  They were extremely excited.  


The project is finally complete!

With the combined efforts of a Let Girls Learn grant, the hard work from my counterpart Ntate Mothibeli, the support of the school staff, and help from the surrounding community, we were able to construct 10 new female toilets.  

As a side note, I’m thinking about starting a mural project to make the building a bit more appealing.  Right now it looks like a bomb shelter designed by a communist Russian architect.

Grand Opening

There was a really awesome ceremony yesterday.  

While a fire marshal’s worst nightmare, we did managed to fit all 480 students into a single room without incident.  The school choir performed several songs.

Speeches by Ntate Mothibeli (pictured below),

the principal Ntate Mothokoa (pictured below), Ntate Mots'oari, and Ntate Paleso.  

The boys performed a traditional stomp dance.

Then there was a military inspired march followed by a mock inspection.

There was a passionate song and dance by some of the girls.

Two girls gave speeches expressing their gratitude for the efforts of everyone involved in the project.  They urged the other girls to work to take care of their new gift. 

Even a brief electrical outage couldn’t stop the fun.

The ceremony ended when Ntate Mothibeli handed the microphone over to me.  I’m not one for long speeches so I simply said “Banana tsa mo kakang”, which translates to “children go poop”.  The room erupted with laughter and the ceremony was over.  


I would like to give a special thanks to Ntate Mothibeli.  He really deserves all of the credit.  He’s been an absolute blessing to work with and I’m looking forward to our next project (hopefully a water well).  

Additionally I would like to thank The Hershey Company #hershey (makers of the Hershey’s Kiss and many other sweets) for their generous donation, without which, this project would not have been a possibility.  I would like to thank the teachers and staff of Sekonyela High School, the principal Ntate Mothokoa, and deputy principal Ntate Mofokeng for their faith in me.  I would also like to thank the community for their contribution and support of the school, the Peace Corps and ‘M’e Ntsopa for her assistance with the lengthy grant process, and last but not least, the girls of Sekonyela High School for their patience with the slow progress and performances at the ceremony.  


- Joel

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