Tag Archives: SHEP

Abutia Agove School Latrines

A while back I wrote that I had a grant approved to build two institutional latrines for a Kindergarten, Primary, and Junior High school in a nearby community, Abutia Agove. Well after a lot work and a few setbacks, the latrines were finally completed during the first week of July. Now that the school children have a viable place to do their business, they won’t be tempted to “use the bush as their toilet”.

Completed 6-seater latrine with one of the artisans, Jackson.

Completed 6-seater latrine with one of the artisans, Jackson.

Part of the reason the project took almost 6 months to complete was because the pits were so difficult to dig. Under the terms of the grant that I received from Ghana WASH, the community was to dig the two pits seven feet deep. However, it turned out the ground is full of stones that were very difficult to dig through. In fact, the community broke 4 pick axes before giving up at six feet. Another problem we faced was the initial placement of the Kindergarten latrine. After we had already the begun excavation, a man from the community threatened to take us to court for trying to build the latrine on his land. Even though we believed the land belonged to the school, we decided not to go to court and move the latrine to another site. We were also set back another couple of weeks because our cement supplier ran out of cement. When conducting business in Ghana, encountering problems like these is the norm.

To go along with these brand spanking new latrines, we also trained a school health club, food vendors, health teachers and head teachers. The school health club consists of 30 students from the Primary and Junior High school to act as health and hygiene leaders in the school and ensure that the latrines are properly used and cleaned. Properly operating a latrine isn’t a trivial task, especially when a whole student body is using it. Plus, there are no school janitors.

Me and the teachers that attended the workshop.

Me with the teachers that attended the workshop.

I still struggle when leading workshop sessions, because I haven’t reached the point where I can facilitate hour-long sessions in Ewe. Fortunately I can use English with the teachers and most of the older students. But the food vendors and younger students learn the best in Ewe. During the course of the workshop I facilitated sessions on hand washing and latrine operation and maintenance. Overall, the 4-day workshop was a success and I’m looking forward to seeing the schools positively change their health and hygiene practices.

Student demonstrating how to wash hands.

Student demonstrating how to wash hands.

Me and my counterpart with the school health club.

Me and my counterpart with the school health club.


First Grant Approved

Some of my previous blog posts seem to suggest that I’ve been on vacation for the past eight months. Contrary to popular belief, I’ve actually been working. Sometimes it’s just more exciting to write about the “fun” things that I’ve been experiencing. However, this post will be just business.


A latrine artisan I’ve been working with in a neighboring community informed me that the kindergarten, primary, and junior high schools in the community don’t have toilet facilities. The students were defecating in the outskirts of the school, because they had no other place to go. Aside from the negative health implications, it also causes the students to be late for class and puts them at risk of snakebites. He pleaded with me to try to do something about it, so I applied for a small grant to build latrines for the school.

I was just informed today that the small grant I submitted over a month ago was approved! Now the actual work will begin when I have to monitor the construction of the school latrines and form health clubs in the school.

Other Projects In the Works

  • I am currently writing a small grant to get shutters and doors for a school in my community. Having classrooms without doors and shutters causes many problems. You can read about the problem here, as it was featured in the news. My community seems really gung-ho about it, so I’m excited for the project.

No doors and shutters leaves the classroom open to the elements and potential thieves.

  • I’m looking into getting boreholes for some nearby communities. My community received piped water right before I arrived, but some of the neighboring communities don’t have the same luxury
  • I agreed to teach ICT once a week at a junior high school in my community. Teaching is really challenging for me here. I have to speak very slow and clear for the students to have a chance of understanding my English. Also, students aren’t taught how to think critically at school; they “learn” through rote memorization. I’m a firm a believer that you aren’t learning unless you are thinking. Needless to say, I’m up for a challenge.

On top of all this I’ll be supporting my Local NGO, EDSAM, with all of their Ghana WASH activities and household latrine construction in the Volta Region. We are trying to finish building 200 latrines before we start building another phase of construction. I think I’ll be very busy in the foreseeable future.

SHEP Evaluations

Part of the “software” portion of the Ghana WASH project took me and a few of my colleagues to a Primary School (Elementary 1st – 6th grade) and a Junior High School (JHS). Ghana WASH built latrines for these two schools a few years ago. In exchange for the latrines, the schools have agreed to teach regular health lessons to the students and keep the latrines properly maintained. Our job was to evaluate how well these schools implementing the health lessons and maintaining the latrines.

Inspecting the latrines.

One of the schools we visited was Tsito E.P. Primary, a Presbyterian Elementary school. When we arrived with met with the SHEP (School Health Education Program) Coordinator. The SHEP Coordinator is one of the teachers at the school who is in charge of everything that includes health education – from health lessons to after school health clubs. SHEP is a program started by the Government of Ghana a few years ago, so every school is “supposed” to have a SHEP Coordinator.

After meeting with the SHEP Coordinator, we patrolled the campus. First, we looked at the latrines, which were very clean because the students clean them five days a week. Then during break we got to interview the students. We observed their general hygiene and also quizzed them to see if they have learned anything from the health lessons they have been receiving. Our criteria for having good hygiene is clean nails, a full head of hair (ring worm is rampant here; I’d say 1 out of every 10 kids has it on their head), a personal handkerchief, and a cup for drinking water.

Inspecting the children’s fingernails.

I’d say about half the children I evaluated passed the test. Since the children love to swarm around any person who is white, this also provided a good opportunity for some impromptu health lessons.

The rest of the month is looking like it’s going to be rather busy. I have a couple of workshops I need to attend, I’m teaching a computer course to the staff of my NGO, and the construction of latrines is about to get underway in four communities. At least I’ll have plenty to blog about.