Ke, 17, is a student at a lower secondary school in the most north-eastern province of Cambodia. 50% of schools in Ratana Kiri province fail to have functioning toilets or toilets at all, resulting in increased hardship for students and in particular, girls. However, CARE’s efforts to improve the facilities at Ke’s school have greatly affected her experience and ensured she continued her education.
Two years ago, Ke’s school had limited water supply and as a result the toilets were unsanitary. The lack of access to water caused numerous problems. CARE constructed a new water tank, which used solar power to pump water from the well, and renovated toilets that had not been usable due to the lack of water.
Prior to the water tank, when the water in the boys’ bathroom ran out, Ke noted that they would use the girls’ toilet instead. “Sometimes the boys used the girls’ toilet when there was no water in theirs and I felt shy about that,” she says.
As well as privacy, hygiene was an issue. “I try to be hygienic and wash my hands after I use the toilet but in order to do that I needed to go and pump the water first which made it difficult,” Ke recounts. With the new water tank and hand washing station, water is more accessible than before.
A particular challenge for teenage girls such as Ke is dealing with their period while at school. Having only one toilet in the school meant that people needed to take turns to use it, often resulting in long waits which the girls found difficult to cope with. As there are more working toilets, Ke says this has improved. “I no longer have to wait for others and I feel safe using the toilets.” Ke’s friends agree that with separate bathrooms, they can go whenever and feel much happier about this.
Ke attributes an increase in student attendance to the new facilities as it gives students “motivation” to come to school. For Ke, her good attendance is reaping benefits; over the last two years she has been excelling and is enjoying school more than ever. Now in Grade 9, she is proud of her achievements academically.
“I am the top 1 or 2 in my class for all of my subjects and I am especially good in Khmer. I am able to gain knowledge from my teachers, which is important as it means I will be happy and have a good future as I will be able to look for jobs such as being a doctor or middle school teacher.”
*Names have been change to protect identities