A robot will teach handwashing skills to students in India

Date: 2nd April 2020

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By Raza Naqvi, DELHI, India – A robot called Pepe will soon encourage schoolchildren to wash their hands. The robot will help kids adopt better practices by talking about hygiene and sanitation and developers say they will be useful especially when pandemics like COVID-19 requires confinement and social distancing.

Video courtesy: Ammachi Labs

According to UNICEF, a review of several studies shows that handwashing with soap can prevent diarrheal disease by up to 48 percent. It also suggests that handwashing can be a critical measure in controlling pandemic outbreaks of respiratory infections. Washing hands can cut the risk of the respiratory virus by 16 percent.

Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC) has procured the robots, which will be placed in 19 institutions run by the organization across Delhi.

“Pepe robots would have been installed in schools but due to the lockdown imposed by the government, the schools have been closed. As soon as we get directives from the government to open the schools, we will install the robots quickly,” said Manjinder Sirsa, President of DSGMC.

Student watches a Pepe robot as he washes his hand at one of the school water points.© Ammachi Labs

The robot was developed by researchers from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University in collaboration with the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Each robot will cost around 7500 rupees (US$100 ) and will be mounted on a wall near handwashing station in schools.

Pepe will interact with children as they pass by the washbasins and will encourage them to adopt proper handwashing practices.

The DSGMC is also planning to launch a mobile app that will monitor the success of the initiative. The app will be used by teachers who will upload photos and videos of children adopting healthy practices at school. This will help committee members to monitor the activities and see the progress.

Mr Manjinder Sirsa, (Center) President of Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee – DSGMC. © WSSCC/Raza Naqvi.

“As coronavirus spreads, all health advisories mention that hands should be clean all the time. Our purpose behind installing Pepe is to promote handwashing and better hygiene practices among children,” explains Mr Sirsa.

“Pepe robots will help in promoting cleanliness among students and will support the prevention of contracting coronavirus and other hand-derived infections,” he concluded.

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