UBCO prof, students help Tanzania school

Condemned washrooms need rebuilding or school will be closed.

  • Aug. 3, 2014 5:00 a.m.

It’s a basic, biological need. When you need to go to the bathroom, you need to go.

But a group of children in Tanzania are about to lose the opportunity to get an education because the washrooms at the school are in such bad shape, the building is about to be condemned. The school could be shut down indefinitely.

Sandra Peacock, community, culture, and global studies associate professor at UBC Okanagan, saw the need for action. Peacock, a Vernon resident who teaches anthropology, has taken students from UBC’s Go Global program to Tanzania for the last two years for courses in community-based research and “voluntourism.”

Part of the coursework involves supporting the local peoples with projects in their villages. This year, the focus switched and she is helping with a fundraising campaign to save the school.

“Our campaign is called ‘Wapi choo?’ That’s kiSwahili for ‘where’s the washroom?’,” says Peacock. “It’s one of the first phrases my students learned when they arrived in Tanzania—for obvious reasons.  So we had fun with it. But for the kids at Moivaro Primary, it’s no laughing matter.”

Peacock, along with UBC’s GO Global students, The Vijiji Foundation, staff and students at the school, has created a video that demonstrates the dilapidated state of the 40-year old washrooms. With large holes in the concrete floor and no running water, it’s evident that the facilities are beyond repair.

“Moivaro will be shut down indefinitely unless they can build new washrooms to replace the existing ones which are dirty and dangerous,” says Peacock.

The Vijiji Foundation, a local non-profit organization, has been working with Moivaro Primary School, near Arusha, Tanzania, for the last year, building school gardens, painting classrooms, and developing English language learning resources. Peacock has teamed up with the The Vijiji Foundation with a fresh goal of raising money to build new washrooms for the school.

“If the school shuts down, this would leave nearly 1,000 children out of classes,” says Peacock. “As the teachers pointed out, what good are gardens, painted classrooms, and English language books if the children can’t come to school?”

The school started a fundraising campaign to replace the bathrooms, but Peacock says it is a struggle. The community surrounding Moivaro consists of families who get by as small-scale subsistence farmers; they can barely cover the costs of sending their children to school.

The goal is $10,000 and Peacock says they are using the flexible funding option with online fundraiser Indiegogo, which means all funds go directly towards the cost of purchasing materials and paying local fundi (workmen) to construct new washrooms—complete with running water and flush toilets.

To watch the video or to find out more, visit: indiegogo.com/projects/wapi-choo

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