After conducting a stakeholder analysis in Addis Ababa, Splash identified school janitors as a key partner to achieve our sustainability goals at schools. Most of the school WASH curriculum targets students, teachers, and the broader school community; there doesn’t appear to be a separate program for janitors in Ethiopia. School janiotrs are often overlooked, despite the fact that they are the key staff responsible for the functional use of sanitary facilities, especially toilets.
On average, there are five to seven janitors per school. Majority of school janitors are female, with a literacy level of grade six to twelve. They are expected to clean classrooms, offices, and toilets, as well as the school compound and feeding centers. Janitors arrive at the school before any other staff. They assist the shift guard by reminding them to fill the water tank, check water functionality and take corrective action if valves are closed.
The contribution of janitors is a very unrecognized position. They “don’t feel like janitors are a respected or recognized position”. Some schools had dedicated locations for janitorial supplied, but they were often small, disorganized and unsecure (causing materials to be stolen). The supplies provided by the school were not the necessary quality, “the gloves we use are torn, as well we have no apron and mask which will expose us for different diseases”. They also noted that water availability was a major barrier to accomplishing their tasks.
Understanding the physical and social environment, and janitor’s experience, Splash designed a pilot that brought together janitors and their supervisors together from three separate schools.
The program started with each person thinking through the value of their job and the contribution they have towards students’ success in school. We then transitioned into activity- based learning targeting four key topics:
- Germs and diseases
- Hand hygiene and proper handwashing behavior
- Importance of clean sanitation to reducing disease
- School cleaning materials and personal protective equipment
Following the in-classroom activities, the entire group went to a pre-identified area where the School Management designated as the new “cleaning corner”, a space where janitors can keep their supplies and build a sense of unity and ownership for their work and materials.
The day ended with provision of quality materials from Splash and a pledge. One made by Splash, one by the supervisors and one by the janitors, to collectively work towards our unified goal.
The final component of the program design culminated in the celebration of World Toilet Day. During this time, the entire student body was mobilized to learn about the importance of properly using the sanitation facilities and learn about the work of the janitors. With the Hygiene Ambassadors and Focal Teachers leading the charge, they handed over certificates to each janitor and collectively proclaimed their thanks and appreciation.
Happily, the initial assessment is that the pilot was very successful. They commented that “this [a training] was something they had never experienced”, they really enjoyed the day and asked that it could be even longer and cover more topics. Prior to this training, they didn’t understand the importance of soap in the prevention of germ transmission. Many exclaimed their immediate next step would be to teach their families this important message and make sure their own families are washing their hands with soap. Another activities that the supervisors discussed as key information was the proper preparation of chlorine disinfectant.
They expressed excitement about the format and flow of the day. Providing space for them to build relationships and learn from each other. To determine the vision of their work, and to go back to their school with very clear next steps, as well as support from their supervisors.
One janitor expressed, “you have made me feel seen”, which was one of our target goals for this program. To recognize the hard work of janitors, and make them feel valued.