At the Adivasi AshramshalaResidentialSchool, 438 students and 22 teachers are currently living without working toilets, soap, and hot water. Furthermore, 40 students are sleeping in classrooms or dormitories comprising of an area of only 20 m2 each.
Since our first visit in 2012, we are observing the on-site situation. This year, we have returned for 5 project days including one overnight stay at the school in order to understand and analyse the current situation and to find appropriate solutions.
Apart from the original objective to construct school toilets, we are planning a far larger project with five major project objectives:
- Building an Ecosan toilet for the whole school
- Building sufficient facilities for washing hands and integration of sustainable soap production
- Launching a local company manufacturing sanitary napkins for women by women
- The construction of accommodation facilities for 400 school children
- Transformation and modernisation of the current bedrooms
These projects need to be carried out urgently and as quickly as possible. The close cooperation between Non-Water-Sanitation e.V and Sevadham Trust enabled a concrete final plan for the Ecosan school toilet and also almost final planning for the accommodation facilities. The designs and planning were carried out by Non-Water-Sanitation under the leadership of Roman Baudisch and myself. In this process, it was important for us to involve the members of the school such as the school principal, teachers and students, as well as the Indian architect Mr.Sane and the Sevadham Trust. We immediately added their ideas and productive criticism to our planning.
We have set the ambitious goal to begin the works already in September 2014. But there are still some open questions:
How much will the construction cost and will we succeed with the implementation of our final plans in such an isolated region in India? Which local construction company will be commissioned? What materials are we going to use and where will we get those? Which transportation company is going to deliver the necessary materials in time, how much will the transportation cost, and where can we get construction vehicles?
So it was high time to clarify those crucial questions. Initially, we were surprised by the average construction costs in Pune. In this region, a square meter building area costs about 30,000 rupees (450 €). According to Mr Sane, the prices for construction materials doubled in the last 10 years due to the building boom in India and Pune is actually an attractive economic hotspot.
Therefore, we explored local construction sites near the school and asked for the local prices for construction materials. Thus, bricks cost 7 rupees the piece and a 50m² house nearly 4,000-5,000 €, which corresponds to a price of approximately 100,000 € for our project size. However, this is too much for our budget.
One way to save personnel costs would be to involve the school children and their parents in the construction project. For example, the children could be involved for the length of one lesson each day. The school children could carry out simple and creative tasks in particular, which promotes not only their creativity, but also a connection with the project and pride of being part of it. We further tried to reduce costs by looking for local materials and their usage, and we were surprised to find everywhere massive basalt rocks, silt, sand, gravel and local brick factories.
But the biggest expenditure need concerns the actual required space for the accommodation facilities.Is the size accommodation facilities realistically planned or oversized?
Initially, we calculated with a room size of 16 m² for 6-7 children and 10 houses with 6 rooms each. That is 40 children per house with 96 m² of floor space each.
But when we stayed overnight at the school and talked to the teachers and students, we realized that the plan had to be adjusted several times.
We found out that forty children sleep in a total area of 20 m² and that they set up sleeping groups and share their blankets. In addition to our observation, we also interviewed the class representatives of each grade in a group interview regarding their views on their current sleeping situation. Especially the older students aged between 14 and 17 years require significantly more space and more privacy, whereas the younger children prefer co-sleeping in large dormitories.
However, rather than about the little space in the rooms, they complained about the lack of sanitary facilities, the cold and humidity in the monsoon season, and about the hard floor.
Furthermore, we observed that the children are not all asleep at the same time. While some were talking loudly, others tried to sleep. The light in the room is turned on constantly, otherwise the children would bump into each other when they need to use the toilet (OD). Unfortunately, we also observed that the children went in groups of five or 10 to the OD areas to guarantee certain security.
Our next important idea was to strictly separate playing rooms, study rooms and bedrooms. The playing rooms and reading corners that were initially part of the plans for the new accommodation facilities will be eliminated and will be integrated in the present dormitories, which now lose their function as dormitories. Thus, in the afternoon and evening, the kids can play in school or sit comfortably together, while the accommodation is separated from the school buildings and serves as an exclusive quiet zone.
In order to establish the best size for the bedrooms, we played a game with the kids in which they were asked to describe their normal sleeping habits. Following this, we simply halved the number of children to 20 children per 24 m². The doubling of the area was extremely noticeable. We revised our idea of setting up double beds for all children, but chose beds with comfortable mats and own drawers for each child. The average size of the children is between 1.15 m (6 years) and 1.60 m (17 years). Currently, three younger children are sleeping on a one metre wide area. Therefore, beds are planned with 6 m x 1.70 m for 10 younger school children. The total area will therefore be halved to 540m². Furthermore, we are planning girls and boys bungalows each comprising a capacity of 40 girls and boys, thus with 6 children per room.
The last step was to measure and inspect the already existing structures for including it into the general planning.
We immediately noticed the unfinished and abandoned construction of a building just opposite to the school and we decided to use this unfinished building as a test project for the accommodation. Our experiences in Darewadi taught us to plan in small steps. This way, it is possible to pull the emergency brake in case problems occur in order to avoid wasting money. In fact, already four unfinished building ruins exist on the school grounds (two toilet houses, the foundation for an earlier hostel and the already mentioned unfinished building, intended as accommodation for the facility manager and potential visitors). This made us sceptical. How can we prevent our project from ending up as an unfinished construction site?
We decided to implement four essential steps:
1. Two urinals and test areas
(School garden, and new garden area) for demonstration and training purposes with the school and farmers.
Three weeks ago, we had already cleared the unfinished building together with the kids in order to use it as a test area for two urinals. Especially the toilet project can only succeed if we are going to achieve that the surrounding farmers agree to reuse the urine. We want to ensure this through a test area and several weeks training on the use of urine with the farmers and intensive group and individual interviews. The Ecosan Services Foundation is supporting this process and will mainly assist the training and sensitisation activities for the Ecosan project and Sevadham Trust and will support us at any time.
2. The construction of the first house with two UDDTs
The unfinished building can serve as an opportunity to test construction companies and construction phases within a very limited budget as well as to gradually extend, develop and document the project as the construction is accompanied and filmed by several architecture students and lecturers from Germany, as well as members of Guts For Change. The two UDDTs that are built before the actual school toilet project should increase the acceptance, eliminate scepticism and be examples for the families of school children to build copies as it is impossible to take them to Darewadi (100 km away) to present the operation of the UDDTs. In the next years, the building will assume different functions. First, it is used as accommodation for construction workers and for ourselves, later as a home with private toilet access for the facility manager and one or two other teachers. Finally, it shall accommodate the supervisor. This process section is immensely important and gives us information on typical project duration and the construction workflows in India. It is quite possible that this planning is completed in two weeks, but it may also take almost a year. The construction of the 50 m² house and the two UDDTs costs about 5,000 € and can be realized with the already collected donations.
3. Construction of the school toilet
If everything goes according to our schedule, the project “Ecosan toilets” can be started in October/November 2014. The 16 UDDTs, 6 standing urinals, hand washing facilities, urine tanks, rain water gutters, rain water collection tanks and compost areas will cost another 12,000 €. The construction phase will also be accompanied and controlled by the ESF and NWS.
Since March 2013, the children are continuously being educated about the operation mode of the school toilets as part of their school lessons, therefore training can be implemented much more quickly and effectively than in Darewadi where each household had to be convinced individually. The construction process should not last longer than 2 months.
4. Construction of the accommodation facilities
Following the gradual extension of the project period, we expect to complete the accommodation facilities until 2015. At least 40,000-60,000 € will be required for the accommodation facilities, but we have over one year to collect more donations and to find sponsors from India and Europe, and to convince them of our architectural designs. The already completed projects might help to inspire local supporters and Indian investors to financially back our project. Furthermore, we want to use crowdfunding to build an emotional bond between project supporters and the school children of the AdivasiAshramshalaResidentialSchool. We also hope to provide more funds for the school by cross financing measures together with Change Travels, Change Films, Garden Campaign and Ecotoi.
These were all relevant facts on the current situation.