Toilets Making the Grade (TMG) is a school competition framework aiming at activating schools to improve their own sanitation and hygiene situation with minimal external input. It triggers teamwork between management, administration, parents, pupils and maintenance staff using a ‘tool kit’ (inspirational package) that allows them to analyse the situation and develop and implement improvements using their own means. It provides potential for media advocacy and political ownership.
TMG mainly works at three levels (1) direct school sanitation and hygiene improvements, (2) capacity strengthening at a local government level and (3) national advocacy for WASH in Schools (WinS). TMG provides a methodology to foster teamwork within the schools bringing together a diverse group of school stakeholders with different perspectives on challenges and solutions regarding sanitation and hygiene. Many of the solutions target the operation and maintenance of school WASH facilities, such as blocked toilet pipes or the provision of soap, but can also be adapted to facilitate COVID-19 safer schools. Equipped with an inspirational package of self-analysis tools, the school teams develop a common understanding of sanitation and hygiene-related challenges and their root causes. The understanding is developed between learners, school management, maintainers and other peers at school and possibly even the surrounding community. Based on the root causes the teams then develop simple and cost-effective solutions which schools are able to implement with their own means. These solutions can be as simple as cutting soap into smaller pieces to avoid soap stealing, asking children to show that they have remembered to bring toilet paper from home during morning assembly or establishing a kiosk selling snacks to pay for the operation and maintenance of WASH facilities. Schools are incentivised by recognition and prizes T.40. All schools that participate benefit from the process and those with the best ideas and solutions can win additional prizes. Sponsors should be secured early in the process to ensure locally attractive prizes. Ideally, the competition takes place through the government, achieving a new perspective of school WASH through the preparation and judging process. The recognition through local or national authorities (or local artists or celebrities) in the final award ceremonies has proven to be very effective as an incentive to participate and for national advocacy for school WASH.
Specific inspirational TMG tools for self-analysis and identification of solutions
TMG is a cost-effective and scalable approach that can be adapted to different contexts. It can be used in both rural and urban areas, tailored to a specific target area or school type or used nationally for all schools. The criteria used to compare schools can be locally adapted. The approach is more suitable for stable environments and is mainly used in development contexts. It may also be applicable in protracted or fragile contexts with less government involvement; the tool kit and materials can be adapted for use in any context. It can also be used to complement existing WinS initiatives such as Fit for School F.10. A global TMG web portal is available to ease implementation, making the approach easier to upscale.
To set up and organise a TMG contest at least one person with communication and organisational skills is needed to bring together all relevant stakeholders. Generic materials and templates are available but have to be adjusted and designed to the specific context; they may need translating. The planning process can take several months, particularly if implemented at scale and through the government. The actual implementation can be done in one term or over one school year. Ideally, the competition includes a large-scale launch and an awards ceremony with high-level representation and good media coverage; it should be attractive to both learners and adults. Enough time should be scheduled for the school assessment and awards ceremony.
TMG was developed to empower schools with the tools to improve sanitation and hygiene themselves. The lessons learned from its implementation in Uganda since 2019 show that the engaged schools were able to create collective responsibility as a school team with different perspectives, as well as plan, budget and implement WinS solutions on their own. At the institutional level, the awareness of WinS increased, knowledge and experience were exchanged and different local government departments improved their school inspections.
Provide enough time for planning, preparation, design and translation
Make sure that all stakeholders are involved from the beginning and that they fully understand the contest’s approach
Identify prizes that truly trigger participation (e.g. responsibly using sponsors or celebrities)
Ensure the collaboration of different local government departments to assess and judge contest entries
Do not put the focus on the performances (e.g. poems or dance) instead of the sanitation and hygiene self-analysis and the development of specific ideas and solutions.
The TMG school competition has so far been implemented at various scales and with different partners in Germany, Uganda and Pakistan. It was modified for COVID-19 safer schools in Jordan. In 2017/2018 TMG was implemented in Kampala, Uganda with all 79 public schools participating and, as a result, amplifying a collective sense of responsibility. GTO supplied the contest methodology and adapted it to the local context in collaboration with GIZ and local partners. In close collaboration with the School Management Committees and the Kampala Capital City Authority, the contest yielded routine, school-driven WASH budgeting and planning to implement the identified WASH-related solutions and interventions.
To trigger and enable schools to improve their own individual school sanitation and hygiene situation
GTO (undated): Toilets Making the Grade
GTO (2019): Toilets Making the Grade in Uganda
Wendland, C., Rieck, C. et al. (2014): Making WASH in Schools more Sustainable. Case Stories from SuSanA Partners, SuSanA