To bring a healthy smile at every child’s face is what the Rotary Clubs aims and made it a reality through WinS WASH in schools programmes.Water, Sanitation and Hygiene has been beautifully understood and collaborated by the club to provide a bright future for the nation children.
“I accompany her very early in the morning to fetch water,” beautifully signs Chanchal Pani, an eight-year-old, while looking into her mother’s eyes. It is their everyday task. She is the woman who fetch water for the family, but lacks WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) due to inadequate water supply which has effectively put everyone’s health and chances of survival at risk, particularly children, who are the most vulnerable.
Fulfilling every child’s right to water, sanitation and hygiene, education remains a major challenge for policymakers, school administrators and communities in many countries. In a group of surveyed developing countries, less than half of primary schools have access to safe water and adequate sanitation.
Each year, children lose 443 million school days because of water related illnesses, of which 272 million are lost due to diarrhea alone. More than 40 percent of diarrhea cases in school children result from transmission in schools rather than homes.
Finding an aid to the problem Rotary Clubs took an initiative to start WASH programme in schools to prevent every child from health sickness.
Last December Rotary’s Institute at Chennai Rotary Leadership signed an MOU with Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister of Urban Development to be a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat campaign. It was agreed that Rotary Clubs throughout India will implement WinS (WASH in Schools) programme in Government schools.
UNICEF has joined hands with Rotary and provided technical support.
Earlier the Board of Trustees for Rotary International in April, 2014 had approved the exploration of a Target Challenge for the organisation that focuses on WASH in schools which provides Rotary an opportunity to work within two Rotary’s areas of focus – water & sanitation and education & literacy to create sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools, shares Ramesh Chander, Coordinator, WinS.
This approach involves O&M (Operation & Maintenance) & BCC (Behavior Change Communication) activities which will lead to better school attendance and greater educational outcome.
“As a beginning Rotary International has decided to focus on certain districts to pilot this effort which include the districts that have undertaken to participate in WinS programme in their district by adopting 300 schools for B&M and BCC. Rotary International has extended an invitation to all districts in India (being a focus country) to join WASH in Schools Target Challenge as a part of the pilot initiative before opening this opportunity to every club and district worldwide,” says Chander.
Water and sanitation
The chore of water collection has always been a backbreaking one with the methods having adverse health effects. “Regular contact with water also makes women prone to water-borne diseases such as Schistosomiasis (bilharzia), onchocerciasis and dracunculosis (spread by guinea worms),” advise Shagufta Tarrannum, gynecologist.
Therefore, providing the preventive remedial Rotary on the daily provision provided the child-friendly and sustainable safe drinking water in schools and sufficient water for hand washing, school cleaning, food preparation and cooking.
On the other hand, separate toilets for boys and girls, with one unit generally having one toilet plus three urinals maintaining a ratio of preferably one unit for every 40 students.
“Our aim is to reach every government school with safe drinking and washing water. We have reached the maximum of schools in the northern side of India and certainly will cover the rest part of the country soon,” proudly states Chander.
Menstrual hygiene facility
Women’s lives are intricately linked with water, but the water rights discourse is historically rooted in patriarchy, connected, as it is, intrinsically to land rights. The gender mandate recognises that men and women have diverse and different water needs, even within the same household although they may not necessarily be in conflict.
The women therefore lack many hygiene habits and land into health disorders. The Rotary group educates the importance of the hygiene habits which includes soap, adequate and private space for changing and disposal facilities for menstrual waste, including an incinerator and dustbins.
“I am thankful to the WASH programme which has enlightened many girls students of our school which has made them more healthy, sharp and confident in their life approach,” says Sailja Mukherjee, a school teachers of Balika Vidyalaya.
As advertisements in the television have even picked up the cause and socially highlights the necessity of ‘daily hand-washing with soap’, similarly Rotary displays acts of hand washing facilities with soap with a group of 10-12 students to wash hands at two critical times: before eating and after using the toilet.
“The idea is simple to develop hygiene and healthy habits on the daiIy basis,”says Chander.
Operation and maintenance
Many organisations, especially schools, come up with facilities like free meal and hygiene water programmes but lack the operational system. “Many schools which have started the programme but couldn’t last long, providing the facilities as promised. We don’t want to take any chance and fail in what is committed. Therefore, we have a team who look after the right supply in a healthy manner,” explains Chander.
All water, sanitation and hand washing facilities need to be clean, functional and well maintained by ensuring a regular supply of cleaning materials, consumables like soap, disinfectants, brooms, brushes, buckets etc., by appointing local sweepers/cleaners, and undertaking repairs wherever needed with regular inspection of water and sanitation facilities.
Behaviour change activities
The WASH programme is even paying huge attention on promotion of personal hygiene and school hygiene through child cabinets, posters, wall-painting, messaging, events and competitions, water, sanitation and hygiene messages through supplementary reading materials, activity based learning methodologies or/and during the morning assembly sessions. Also, promotion of menstrual hygiene, education/management by female teachers and Rotary Female Volunteers.
“The programme is trying to develop the soft skills of the students and the management levels of the institution which all together can produce a healthy and the progressive future,” says Farhat Amin, a social worker.
Simultaneously, development of the right mix of skills, knowledge and experience to facilitate, finance, manage and monitor water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in schools effectively involving training of teachers and SMCs (school management committees)for ensuring equitable use and maintenance of facilities, including the promotion of hygiene are also taken care.
Great strides have been made, nonetheless, to safeguard the well-being of children in schools. Millions of school children now have access to drinking water, sanitation facilities and hygiene education. And the experience gained over the past decade can be well applied to sustaining WASH in Schools programmes that improve health, foster learning and enable children to participate as agents of change for their siblings, their parents and the community at large.
“As citizens, parents, policymakers and government representatives, we all have a role in making sure that every child receives the benefits of WASH in Schools,” adds Chander.