01 September 2015

Champions for healthy schools

Nasautoka District School. © Akvo/2015/Stefan

It’s not something you might think about all that often – but the provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools can mean the difference for children between staying healthy and safe at school – or getting sick and missing important classes - or worse. 

While access to water and sanitation in Fijian schools is improving every day, a large number of students still suffer from related diseases such as trachoma, diarrhoea, lice and scabies. Active efforts to promote sanitation and hygiene in schools can support work to eliminate these problems.

In Fiji, teachers, children, government employees and other sanitation ‘champions’ have worked hard to improve water, sanitation and hygiene, using the ‘Three Star Approach’, which promotes safe, healthy and protective learning environments and helps children to adopt healthy behaviours. 

The approach was piloted in 15 schools in the Nausori School District, Fiji, in partnership with Akvo, a not-for-profit foundation that uses mobile technology to quickly assess, map and monitor changes in water, sanitation and hygiene status.

Korovou Primary School
© UNICEF Pacific/2015/Waqairapoa
Through the programme, schools were supported to construct group hand washing facilities from simple and inexpensive materials, drawing on local knowledge and skills within the school and nearby communities to install them. The children have taken to the new facilities like ducks to water – and participating schools have also used innovative ways and methods to support hand washing even when water was not available. In Nasautoka District School the Sanitation Champions created a 10-step hand washing drill for the children. When water is not available, the children line up before lunch with their water bottles. Older students walk along the line and provide soapy water to pairs of students who then take turns washing their hands and face and rinsing each other off.

Coupled with the primary school tooth brushing programme, the addition of hand washing and face washing completes the basic steps needed for a complete hygiene programme where ongoing hygiene activities are incorporated in daily school events. 

With the support of the Sanitation Champions, target schools and children have made great strides in prioritising sanitation and hygiene, and in taking practical steps to promote it with all children. Recently the Sanitation Champions took a well-deserved day off to visit schools where their hard work had borne fruit, standing for a photo shoot in schools that are now much healthier thanks to their efforts. With the great enthusiasm shown by the schools and their administrations, the programme shows the true potential of teachers and students as agents of change within the school and household environment. The day showed just how much could be achieved through simple and effective measures that target and build on existing structures and arrangements for long-term behaviour change activities.

Nasautoka District School 10-step hand washing drill .
© UNICEF Pacific/2015/Waqairapoa

Champions present include:

Fiji Ministry of Education. Heritage and Arts

Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services 

Fijian teachers Association WASH Unit

Staff, Administration and Children of Korovou Primary School

Staff, Administration and Children of Nasautoka District School

UNICEF Pacific

Akvo Foundation

Vinaka Vaka Levu, Dhanyavad, Faiak se’ea and Thank You

UNICEF Pacific
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

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