Besides the home, schools are the most important places of learning for children. Behaviours learnt at an early age are likely to be applied for the rest of a child’s life, which is why education is so important. Positive hygiene practices can be taught as well – either in the home or at school.
Children have a right to sanitary facilities such as toilets, safe drinking water, and clean schools. Unfortunately, however, school children in many communities must defecate in the open because the school has few or no toilets. This dearth, combined with social norms, means girls do not attend school during their menses, retarding their education.
Functioning toilets in schools should therefore be assured. The first step in this process is increasing the commitment and ownership on the part of teachers, school staff, parents of students, and even the students themselves for improved water and sanitation services in schools.
WSSCC has been supporting the publication, WASH in Schools, together with IRC. A large number of organizations in the WASH coalition are engaged in activities for schools. Such activities include the School Health Clubs in Zimbabwe, lobbying for rural school sanitation for the Roma minority in Bulgaria, compilation of a school book in the Urdu language in Pakistan, and working on a school health policy in Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania.
Proper school facilities in combination with good sanitary and hygiene practices contribute significantly to reducing the incidence of sanitation and hygiene-related diseases among children. In such conditions, the benefits extend beyond health aspects: children learn better and can bring concepts and practices on good sanitation and hygiene back to their families, friends, and communities.