WASH in Schools progamme

It was estimated that 638 million people in India defecating in the open and 44 per cent mothers disposing their children’s faeces in the open, which causes microbial contamination of water, resulting to large scale diarrhoea in children (UNICEF,2012). India is one of the developing countries facing serious drinking water problems and lack of toilet facilities. It was reported that between 2008 and 2011, the interval between SACOSAN-III (South Asia Conference on Sanitation) and SACOSAN-IV, 750,000 children under five succumbed to diarrhea, dysentery and jaundice in the region. According to a recent World Bank report, the sanitation coverage in India is only 68 per cent for its people. India as an emerging economic superpower in the world, open defecation still remains a major public health concern with 6 per cent of its GDP,(US $ 53.4 billion), wasted annually due to lost productivity, healthcare provision, and other consequences of poor sanitation. There were several examples of court orders based on Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in High Courts and Supreme Courts of India by civil society organizations in order to ensure the basic right of the child such as safe drinking water and sanitation facilities under the preview of Right to Education (RTE). The Supreme Court of India has taken up the issue of Right to Education to ensure that every school in India has requisite number of teachers, potable water, toilets, safe building and other such facilities for students. WASH in Schools (WinS) help children to attend schools that provide safe, healthy and comfortable environment where children grow and learn. It improves attendance, health and cognitive development, increases girls’ participation, establishes positive hygiene behaviors, offers the opportunity to introduce better WASH practices in families and communities and addresses issues of inequity and exclusion. It was further observed that children are powerful agents of change not only in their homes but also in the community as a whole. Centre for Community Health Research (CCHR) has launched a programme in certain selected schools in the southern districts of Kerala called “WASH in Schools” with an objective for better hygiene behavior and healthy environment in schools. The basic concept of this initiative was that schools are considered as ideal places of learning for children and they have a crucial role in the process of community development. Schools can be able to stimulate children for a better behavior change. If there is adequate facilities on enough safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools, children as well as teachers can act as role models of the society. This will definitely influence the communities for a better change in their attitude and approach. WASH school committees, Eco-clubs, Parent-teachers associations (PTAs) and Local Panchayats (PRIs) are found to be the major driving forces of WASH in schools. Stakeholders of the programme: Basically, WASH in Schools is a collective effort by the stakeholders of the sector including Parent-Teachers Associations (PTAs), School directors, Local self-governments (Panchayats), CBOs, NGOs, self-help groups and other grass-root organisations. Activities Awareness will be given to school children on water-borne and water-related diseases. Awareness camps, symposia, seminars, children congress, water quiz, competitions, rallies, will be conducted in all selected schools as part of WASH Campaign. Selected children will be sent to State and National level competitions and incentives will be given to those selected. Further, WASH posters will exhibit and display in all selected schools. To constitute "WASH school committees" and "Eco-clubs" in the respective schools with the co-operation and participation of pupils, teachers, parent-teachers association (PTA) and other stakeholders. Parent-teachers associations (PTAs), school directors, panchayats (PRIs) and other local stakeholders will take the responsibilities for the construction of water supply and sanitary facilities in the respective schools. Children’s project/models based on safe drinking water, sanitation, hygiene promotion will be invited in children congress. Innovative projects will be selected for further studies. Monitoring and evaluation will be carried out on drinking water status, health status, sanitary status and hygiene behavior of children as well as the local communities through epidemiological surveys. Simple disinfection methods of dug wells and available water for drinking will be demonstrated to children in order to reduce water-borne morbidity. Intense awareness will be given to mosquito eradication. During rainy season, medical camps will be conducted in rural and semi-urban schools as part of WASH Campaign in association with PHCs, CBOs, NGOs, Local Self-Governments (PRIs), civil organisations and other grass-root bodies in order to prevent the out-break of water-borne diseases. Key recommendations based on the lessons so far learned from Kerala on WASH in Schools: Partnerships with governments, donors, community-based organisations (CBOs), non governmental organisations (NGOs), teachers, children and school administrators are essential elements to achieve the sustainability of school sanitation and hygiene education programmes. To highlight the duty of all stakeholders to convey the message that "children are effective agents of change and schools are the ideal places of learning for children; and that they have a crucial role in the process of community development" All children have a right to basic facilities such as school toilets, safe drinking water, clean surroundings and information on hygiene. To support efforts to implement environmental awareness/school sanitation/hygiene education in school syllabus for a healthy school environment. Capacity building is needed at all levels. Child friendly especially girl child and disabled friendly water and sanitation design options essential.