We cannot achieve full education outcomes without WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) A school without WASH facilities is not a school, we cannot achieve SDG 4 without success in SDG 6. WASH is a key component in achieving educational outcomes.
Addressing WASH in schools prevents the most common illness among children, develops positive behavior and life skills, and helps them to learn better. Worldwide there are 1.6 million diarrhea deaths per year attributed to a lack of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene.
WASH facilities in schools will lead to a healthy learning environment and increase retention of girls because girls are mostly affected, but nearly one-third of schools around the world still lacked basic Water, sanitation, and hygiene by a research conducted by Water aid in 2017.
For girls, appropriate WASH facilities are particularly important part of ensuring they are safe and healthy participation in school. Girls can struggle to attend and stay in school if they do not have safe, single-sex, and hygienic facilities which are essential for menstrual hygiene management.
According to WaterAid, girls are particularly at risk of sexual violence when using unsafe facilities in school, “some girls complained of feeling fearful in accessing latrines” also young girls who walk long distances to water points are at risk of sexual violence. Sensitizing girls about menstrual hygiene and pubertal changes can encourage girls to come to school during Menstruation.
In integrating WASH programs in school, we should remember the three-star approach, the three-star approach for WASH in schools is designed to improve the effectiveness of hygiene behavior change programs for children. The approach ensures that healthy habits are taught, practiced, and integrated into daily school activities. Schools are encouraged to take simple steps to make sure that children wash their hands with soap, have access to drinking water, and are provided with clean, single-sex, and child-friendly toilets at school every day.
Daily supervised hand-washing session is an important component of the three-star approach, during this activity, all children as a group can wash their hands together with soap once a day before break mealtime, this group activity in schools reinforces the habit of good hygiene behavior and uses the positive power of social norms and peer encouragement to strengthen healthy actions. The sanitation and the water component of the three-start approach are also centered on group activities on a daily basis. For sanitation, existing toilets should b kept clean through a daily routine, for water, schools should make arrangements in which children have their own drinking water bottles filled with water from home or filled from a safe source at school.
Once minimum standards are achieved, schools can move from one star to three stars by expanding hygiene promotion activities and improving infrastructure, especially for girls, ultimately meeting national standards for WASH in schools
In achieving the three-star approach, keep it simple, scalable, and sustainable, the three-star approach will help schools become more effective at providing a healthy environment for all children
When implementing WASH programs in school, we should take note of the following:
- Identifying relevant stakeholders and involving them in integrating WASH programs in schools
- Involving all relevant stakeholders in the budgeting and planning processes
- Let the educational sector take the lead
- Involve the girls on how to use and repair the WASH systems, they should be trained, this will help in sustainability.