By Ruth Carlos Martinez, Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS), Water & Sanitation
"Good Sanitation and Cleanliness in schools are of prime importance" Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Minister, 2014
Clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices are essential for the survival and development of children. For children, water and sanitation-related diseases are one of the leading causes of death. This apply to Pantikian Elementary School, wherein school children suffer from diarrhea and was noted as one of the leading causes of morbidity.
Such is the guiding force that brought Rotarian Dr Cecily Neil to present the case of the children of Pantikian Elementary School, Municipality of Balbalan, Philippines in the RAWCS presentation at May 2017’s District Assembly. Previously, Cecily travelled and completed projects on Sanitation with AusAid Programs in the Pacific, including remote areas in the Philippines. Familiar with local Non Government Agencies on the ground, Cecily presented a project proposal to RAWCS and was accepted by the Rotary Club of Hawthorn.
As noted by Cecily, “Getting there is half the fun, a 12 hour transport from Manila to Kalinga province, home of the mountain province tribes of northern Philippines. Then, a 3 hour bumpy muddy ride around zigzag roads to Pantikian, Balbalan. The trip, done twice in 2017 involved two bone-shaking trips by bus and car from Manila Airport.
I’m a short person with a bung knee and couldn’t even get up the bus steps for the 12-hour trip. People lugged me on like a sack of potatoes,” she says.
Getting at Pantikian for the August first review, Cecily met with Sinangpad, the local Balbalan Mayor, the rural health officer, teachers, and barangay leaders. Much details went in the design to ensure that reliable and stable materials are used and cyclone proof, that the community fully understand Sanitation, and that the school children are the primary users.
Completed in December, Cecily revisited and conducted a site evaluation. Getting a primary school toilet built in the remote Kalinga Province of northern Luzon is one thing; arriving on the spot is another. The toilet block consisting of three-cubicle toilets with handwashing stations and buckets also were provided with running water tapped from the local water main system which fortunately was the only available water line in the area. At a total budget of A$ 4,600, this Sanitation project was funded by the Rotary Club of Hawthorn, through Rotarian David Rush, with a District 9800 Foundation DDF Grant (District Designated Funds). Other site partners are Sinangpad Association (Site Implementor), Provincial Health Office provided the latrine toilet system, and a community organization was formed who provided the “sweat equity” component.
Sustainability is key to all Water And Sanitation projects for RAWCS. As such, the community is involved from inception and then become the “owner” of the project. The project is small but the principles are vital – community involvement and ability to keep the toilet operational. The Parents and Teachers Association members worked with and helped supervise the skilled laborers. Mothers took turns cooking and serving workers’ lunches. Others planted gardens around the toilet.
Work at the school started in October, with the septic pit often flooding from rain. The store kept running out of materials and villagers lent nails, tiles, pipes and timber from their own homes.
“Ensuring spare taps is important because taps are the first things to get broken and often don’t get replaced,” she says.
Training programs on Sanitation and Hygiene were designed and detailed school training on Sanitation and Hygiene will be conducted in the next couple of months, including handwashing, teeth brushing and not to block the pipes, waste water or damage the taps.
The Pantikian Elementary School toilet block is indeed the pride of the Pantikian children. Pantikian men provided the unskilled labour on a voluntary basis. The local Municipal Engineer supervised the work at all key construction points.
Similar Sanitation projects in other schools in the Kalinga province are planned. If you wish your club to be involved in this enriching life saving program, contact RAWCS D9800.