In an enrichment lesson last week I talked to Year 12 students about being a young teacher in Northern Sudan. It was there, on my 24th birthday, that I was looking for somewhere to live in a small town beside the River Nile, where I had been posted to a boys’ secondary school. The small one-roomed house I found was very basic but did have a great toilet. All toilets in those parts were ‘long-drops’, which one squatted over, with a pit beneath, simple but efficient. Mine was one of the best because it had solid walls and a door, and all-importantly a concrete base, which meant it couldn’t collapse, unlike the toilets in my school, which were not nearly as good.
I learned first-hand that not all toilets have the cleanliness nor privacy we take for granted. At AKS, in discussions with ladies from Soroptomists International, our students have learned that in many parts of the world, the lack of toilets can also be a hindrance to educational opportunity and safety, particularly for girls. As a charity seeking to support women and girls globally, they introduced us to the toilet twinning programme. By raising about £60, any of us can sponsor the creation of a toilet in a poorer country. We get a plaque that gives us the exact location of each twin, in a school, village or displacement camp. We have mainly chosen Tanzania and Malawi due to our historical links with projects there.
Like so many of our wonderful community partners, the dedicated ladies of the local Soroptomists have inspired us (pictured setting up a charter with AKS representatives). In turn, they tell us how impressed they are with the efforts of our students, staff and even some parents, who have taken on this fund-raising challenge. Our students eagerly surveyed the junior and senior school buildings, surprised at just how many toilets we had, therefore how many we needed to twin. I am told that we are the first school in the country to have twinned every one.
The last few words of our Mission Statement at AKS are ‘to lead and to serve’. I am very proud of our students’ leadership in this and their desire to serve those in more challenging circumstances than our own.
M H P Walton