21 April 2015

New school year, new bathrooms

Dalaibayar with his third place medal
©UNICEF/Mongolia/2015/Sanjaakhand Nansalmaa

Dalaibayar is an active 12-year-old boy who loves playing basketball and volleyball with his friends. He loves sports so much that when he grows up he wants to be a sports star.

He lives in Tsagaan-Uur a district of Khuvsgul aimag (province) in northern Mongolia. He lives with his parents Erdenebat and Ganchimeg and his three older brothers Sukhhbat, 17, Suhkhuyag, 16, Myagmardalai, 15 and younger sister Otgontsetseg, 3, in a wooden house near the edge of town.

On entering the families wooden home the first thing one sees are medals that the four eldest children have won for sports, academic accomplishments and achievements in the arts. Last year Dalaibayar won third place for his dramatic reading of a traditional Mongolian story among all the school students in the district.

Dalaibayar attends the Damdin School and is in grade six. His older brothers also attend the school and his younger sister goes to the local kindergarten. The school is a 10 minute walk from his home.

“I love going to school,” Dalaibayar says. “My favourite subject is maths because I like numbers.” He also enjoys seeing his many friends at school and taking part in extra-curricular activities.

Over the summer construction on new bathroom facilities at Dalaibayar’s school was completed, with the support of UNICEF and financial assistance from Australian Aid. Three new toilet blocks were built, two improved latrine facilities and one container bathroom with flushing toilets. Each toilet is in a separate stall and has a door which can be locked. All blocks are heated and there are hand washing facilities.

Dalaibayar’s mother Ganchimeg says the new facilities are a big improvement. “Before there was just a pit latrine,” she says. “After using the latrine the children could not wash their hands because there was no place for them to do so”.

“I have visited the new facilities and am really happy with the upgrade,” Ganchimeg says. “They are really comfortable for the children, there is running water and children can wash their hands”.

Dalaibayar agrees. “I like the new toilets very much,” he says. “They are very clean and I can wash my hands. You have privacy when you go to the bathroom and there is a hand dryer.”

Previously there was no separate toilets for boys and girls, and that the toilets had not been private with only wooden petitions between the stalls and no doors.

Community reactions

Dalaibayar and part of his family outside their home in Tsagaan-Uur
©UNICEF/Mongolia/2015/Sanjaakhand Nansalmaa
Tsagaan-Uur district is located 180 kilometers, which takes five hours to drive, from Murun, the capital city of Khuvsgul aimag. In winter the district gets to minus 45 degrees Celsius. Due to the extreme weather providing water and sanitation facilities to the community is a challenge.

According to School Director Bayaraa Ganzorig the community is very appreciative of the new facilities. “There is a lot of interest in the new facilities and how it works,” he explains. “Often people will come to have a look and see what has been done. This is the first time some of the children and parents are seeing an indoor toilet, so they want to go and see it even if they don't have to use it. “

The toilet facilities have incorporated technology that has never been seen before in the district. “There is a hand dryer in the toilets and before the children have only dried their hands using a towel,” Bayaraa explains with a chuckle. “They had no idea how to use a hand dryer or what it was for. They thought the hand dryers were for their faces, so they would wash their faces and use the hand dryers to dry them. We had to teach them how to use it properly.”

Replicating the project

Bayaraa Ganzorig  outside the Damdin School ©UNICEF/Mongolia/2015/Sanjaakhand Nansalmaa

The new toilets in Tsagaan-Uur are part of UNICEF’s work to improve sanitation facilities at schools and kindergartens throughout Mongolia. UNICEF is working in Khuvsgul and in Nalaikh, a peri-urban area of the country’s capital city Ulaanbaatar, to create examples of good sanitation facilities that can be replicated in other parts of Mongolia.

Tumurbaatar Genderpurev is the Chairperson of the Governor’s Office in Khuvsgul aimag and a big supporter of UNICEF’s programme. “UNICEF has improved the sanitation in 12 schools in 12 districts,” he explains. “But the biggest impact is how the knowledge and ideas have spread to other districts. They now want to improve the toilets at their schools and the communities have identified this as an area they want more investment in from the government.”

“What UNICEF had done is great,” he says. “We are very appreciative of UNICEF for building the toilets, but also for the investment in the designs and plans that means we can replicate the project in other districts. We will use these plans to improve the sanitation facilities in each of our 35 schools, 26 dormitories and 38 kindergartens when we have the money.”

Batnasan Nyamsuren, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officer at UNICEF in Mongolia says investing in good water and sanitation in rural areas is very important. “Water and sanitation impacts on children’s health, their ability to go to school and their ability to focus and concentrate when at school,” he explains. “Ensuring children have access to good water and sanitation is vital if we are to ensure they can survive, grow and develop and reach their full potential”.

“When we look at who has access to improved sanitation, in urban areas nearly 70 per cent of people do, but in rural areas less than 40 per cent do according to the latest surveys by UNICEF and the Government of Mongolia,” Batnasan says. “We are trying to reduce these disparities and to ensure every child in Mongolia has access improved sanitation, through greater investment from the public and private sector in sanitation projects.”

For the children in Tsagaan-Uur, the impact is clear – new, warm bathrooms, with hand washing facilities and privacy.


Zetty Brake, Communications and External Relations Officer, UNICEF Mongolia 

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