08 May 2014

Nasautoka Primary School Leads the Way in School Hygiene in Fiji

Students from Nasautoka Primary School. © UNICEF Pacific/2014/Hing
WAINIBUKA, FIJI – Tiled floors, a mirror and a washbasin with soap. These are the basic ingredients for a school bathroom. But for students of Nasautoka Primary School and many other schools in Fiji, these ingredients and facilities are not common place. 

The lack of hygiene facilities at many schools throughout Fiji account for increased rates of absenteeism and illness among students and teachers. “Most of the students used to get very sick”, says Head Teacher, Kasanita Cakacaka. Unsafe water and poor sanitation account for nutritional deficiencies, diarrhoea, worm infestations, respiratory infections, skin and eye infections. These preventable diseases lead to poor attendance or attention at school and hindering many children’s ability to learn, grow and develop.
 
New WASH Facilities at Nasautoka School.
© UNICEF Pacific/2014/Hing
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the Pacific, the Australian Government and Live and Learn are working with parents, schools, governments and development partners through its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme, aiming to provide schools in Fiji with safe drinking water, adequate sanitation facilities, and hygiene education.

Live and Learn are exposing children throughout Fiji to hygiene education. At Nasautoka Primary School students in classes 5 through 8 participated in Live and Learn educational sessions and activities that helped them to understand positive sanitation behaviours and practices. “Live and Learn hosted sessions with students during which they helped the children to think about the WASH facilities the school needed”, said Mrs. Cakacaka.

Through participation in the Live and Learn activities, students from Nasautoka identified solutions to improving their school health standards alongside teachers and parents. The hygiene vision of the students, resulted in the building of new washrooms, a covered walkway and a sheltered assembly area.

Focusing on the design and implementation of sustainable, safe water access points and toilets; the development of hygiene education; and the responsible involvement of parents, students, teachers, the community and governments, Live and Learn are working hard to help schools create realistic solutions to hygiene challenges. Creating affordable hygiene interventions, ensuring that Fijian schools are reaching the national standards for hygiene-promoting and healthy schools.

In celebration of the new facilities, children were asked to write poems. Melaia Taucilagi, a class 8 student shared the following poem at the opening ceremony of the facility.

The tiles glittering glowing clean, with a press the water flows

Hand basin to wash my hands, clean water and perfumed soap

At the same time, look this way and that way admiring myself in the mirror

Less absenteeism, less diseases

No more walking in the heat, no more running in the rain

Walkways built to keep me safe


While the school and surrounding community are thankful for the new facility, they also understand that a change in attitudes and hygienic practices is required by students, teachers and families. Setting an example in Wainibuka, the school’s WASH Champions programme is ensuring that students and the broader community take ownership of the new facility and recognize the importance of healthy hygiene practices. The vision for the WASH Champions programme is to help students set a foundation for a lifetime of good hygiene practices. Mrs. Cakacaka notes that “These students are agents of change and when they grow up to have families of their own, they will incorporate the good hygiene practices they learn at school into their family lives”.

Through this project, 2, 500 children have gained an increased understanding and awareness on healthy hygiene practices and 15 schools have benefited from improved hygiene facilities across Fiji.

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