Water, Sanitation, Health & Hygiene (WASH) in Schools
An estimated 1.9 billion school days could be gained if the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to safe water supply and sanitation are achieved and the incidence of diarrhoeal illness is reduced. One way of achieving this is by providing schools with safe drinking water, improved sanitation facilities and hygiene education that encourages the development of healthy behaviours for life. This strategic approach is known as Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education (WASH) in Schools.
The strategy helps fulfil children’s rights to health, education and participation, and has been widely recognized for its significant contributions to achieving the MDGs – particularly those related to providing access to primary education, reducing child mortality, improving
water and sanitation, and promoting gender equality. WASH in Schools not only promotes hygiene and increases access to quality education but also supports national and local interventions to establish equitable, sustainable access to safe water and basic sanitation services in schools.
Poor sanitation, water scarcity, inferior water quality and inappropriate hygiene behaviour are disastrous for infants and young children and are a major cause of mortality for children under five. Those conditions are also detrimental to the health of school-aged children, who spend long hours in schools.
The physical environment and cleanliness of a school facility can significantly affect the health and well-being of children. Disease spreads quickly in cramped spaces with limited ventilation, where hand-washing facilities or soap are not available, and where toilets are in disrepair. Too often, schools are places where children become ill.
Purpose and scope
Arunodaya Trust’s WASH in 10 Schools aims to improve the health and learning performance of school-aged children – and, by extension, that of their families – by reducing the incidence of water and sanitation-related diseases. Every child friendly school requires appropriate WASH initiatives that keep the school environment clean and free of smells and inhibit the transmission of harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites.
Arunodaya Trust’s WASH in 10 Schools also focuses on the development of life skills and the mobilization and involvement of parents, communities, governments and institutions to work together to improve hygiene, water and sanitation conditions.
While there are many approaches based on differing cultural insights and environmental and social realities, WASH in Schools intervention should include:
- Sustainable, safe water supply points, hand-washing stands and sanitation facilities.
- Fully integrated life skills education, focusing on key hygiene behaviours for schoolchildren and using participatory teaching techniques.
- Outreach to families and the wider community.
An efficiently and effectively implemented WASH in Schools programme will lead to students
- Are healthier.
- Perform better in school.
- Positively influence hygiene practices in their homes, among family members and in the wider community.
- Learn to observe, communicate, cooperate, listen and carry out decisions about hygienic conditions and practices for themselves, their friends and younger siblings whose hygiene they may care for (skills they may apply in other aspects of life).
- Change their current hygiene behavior and continue better hygiene practices in the future.
- Learn about menstrual hygiene and physical and emotional changes during puberty (learning to avoid menstrual odour, discomfort and urinary or vaginal infections will encourage girls to come to school during menstruation).
- Practice gender-neutral division of hygiene-related tasks such as cleaning toilets, fetching and boiling water and taking care of the sick.