Reece Grant recipient Justin Morris spent 10 days in Nasik, India in October with the We Can’t Wait Foundation for his chosen project in which he assisted with the construction of toilet facilities and sanitation education in rural schools.
Justin’s first impressions of the schools were of how little the children have in the way of facilities, and also how excited the kids were to meet them. “All they have is a dirt courtyard where they play cricket,” says Justin. “The buildings are painted mud brick, there’s no glass in the windows and no electricity. Their school uniforms are sometimes the only clothes they own.”
Justin took on an advisory role, educating local tradespeople on correct installation of the toilets. “The tradespeople don’t know how to install things properly over there so it was a matter of teaching them how to ensure the toilets would function long-term – simple things like which drain size to use and the angle of the drain,” he says. “They also don’t understand the purpose and value of the toilets and just want to get the job done and get paid. It’s all about adjusting their mindset.”
An important part of the trip was to educate local children on how to use the toilets and the benefits of using them. Most people, Justin says, do their business in the fields or bushes. “The concept of locking themselves in a small room to go to the bathroom is foreign to them. But once you explain how it works and the reason behind it they begin to understand.”
“Teachers also play a big part in the education process. Some teachers go above and beyond to help educate the children on hygiene. One teacher even made up a song to make it a fun learning experience,” says Justin.
“It’s also important schools know how to maintain the toilets and keep them clean,” he adds.
Another challenge is that schools are given a certain time-frame to build a certain number of toilets by the government in order to keep their funding. Schools then rush to build toilets but they are not always functional. “There were some schools we visited where the toilets can’t even be used and need to be re-built entirely.”
“Our main goal is to give the children at these rural schools a future,” says Justin. “A Year 12 student has gone to America to study computer programming so there is a future out there for these kids. The sickness and death rate for kids from sanitary issues is ridiculously high. We hope to reduce this and give these kids a chance.”
Justin is visiting India again in March 2016 where he will re-visit the schools and see the completed toilets.