DISCLAIMER: This post will delve into the disgusting discourse of defecation. (You have been sufficiently warned).
So, I’ve been teaching CE1 for about a month now. After a week in Ouaga due to tonsillitis I’m back to teaching. Yesterday was particularly challenging. Before class even started I had to separate two girls who were throwing punches at each other. I was shocked. My students will hit each other, but never in a full blown fight. For some reason children in BF hit each other all the time, and if they do so I make them stand in the corner on time out. During class they continuously stop and tell me in Moore,”so and so hit me, they need to be on time out!” (At least they get the concept of time out now :-)).
So where does the fraz come in? First of all, fraz is a delightful term first introduced to me by the Intermediate Girls Director at the time, Julie, to reduce swearing among counselors and to create a fun substitute swear word. It literally means worm poop. So you probably know where this is going…
After recess one of the girls involved in the fight, Fati asked permission to leave. This is pretty common. Most of the time they just step out to drink from a water bottle (an old Coke bottle) or to blow snot rockets and clear their noses. The latrines are to the right of the classroom and Fati started walking to the left. I then look out the window and see her defecating in the field. I start yelling “What are you doing? Where do we poop? Where do we relieve ourselves?” Fati was really embarrassed, but when I asked the rest of the class the same question they couldn’t answer it…that’s not a good sign.
I talked to the other teacher and I asked why Fati was pooping right outside the classroom. the conversation went something like this
Him: “It’s village! People don’t use latrines, they never have”
Me: “But there are latrines here, actually very nice latrines, and they are the same distance away if they were going to squat and poop outside”
Him: “Yeah, but this is what they’ve always done…they’re not going to change”
Me: “We’re going to do a hygiene sensiblisation! This is ridiculous. It stinks everywhere and they really should be pooping in the latrines! People are sick all the time because of open defecation. Most of the microbes that cause diarrhea are transmitted fecal-orally, and I know these kids poop out in the field and don’t even wash their hands!”
This was my reality check that open defecation is a big problem in our village. The sad thing is that there are latrines all over my village, but no one uses them. Even the teachers at my school admitted openly that they just wake up in the morning and poop in the fields. They don’t even bother using the latrine.
I do feel that I need to give my community the benefit of the doubt. Villageois kids are not generally potty trained and there are no obvious consequences for their open defecation. I don’t think that they make the connection that open defecation without washing their hands can lead to GI infections and diarrhea. Case in point: my neighbor’s 2 year old daughter pooped in my courtyard twice while her mom was helping me do laundry. She has never used a latrine or the plastic training toilets that functionnaire children use. They don’t see anything wrong with pooping out in the open. They’ve never been told otherwise. Even with that in mind, they need to be using latrines.
My village received latrine floors and bricks for everyone to construct their own latrine from the government but so far no one has. When I talked with my neighbor he said that by the time all the materials were ready, it was rainy season and it was too late to start.
The schools have latrines, all of my quartier has latrines. But there are no latrines in the marche or near the mosques or churches which is a problem.
The animals poop everywhere in the open and outside my door every morning there is either goat fraz, donkey fraz, or chicken fraz. Kids constantly play with fraz and use it like clay to make things…not a particularly hygienic practice. Why are you sick all the time? Because you are playing and living in fraz!
There’s a big push from senior management to lead Community Led Total Sanitation trainings which have proven successful in many countries around the world. The main point of the training is to shame the community into how “dirty” they are. They do community maps of where the defecation stations are and which areas are frequented the most. I think in theory the training is good. In terms of implementation I am concerned for the safety of the PCV. I don’t know how the community would feel if the foreigner who has been living in their village says to them that they are dirty, and that they are living in filth in a formal training setting. I think to implement this training in the most effective manner it would be to have a villageois receive the training and then lead the training themselves in their village with minimal PCV involvement.
I think just simply making people aware that open defecation is bad is a good first step. In the next couple of days I plan on taking my CE1 kids to the school latrines and showing them how to use them and how to wash their hands. Additionally, if I see any of them defecating outside I will embarrass them and make a point that they need to be doing their business in the latrines.