Today, more than ever, making sure schools have proper hygiene facilities for their students is vital to school re-openings and keeping students and schools healthy. But in the majority of schools in developing countries, they face considerable barriers to providing these. Helping schools develop health and sanitation protocols and get access to the materials they need to meet government requirements are priorities for Edify and education organizations around the globe. Take a look at what we’ve done in Ghana to promote clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) projects.
In Ghana, many schools only have one toilet for their entire school. In some, there might not be any at all. And very rarely are there separate girls’ and boys’ bathrooms. Handwashing sinks and toilets aren’t usually the first thing we may think of when talking about education. But the lack of access to clean water, sanitation, and proper hygiene practices can be some of the most significant barriers to a quality education. Students in developing countries regularly miss school because of hygiene-related and contaminated water-related sicknesses. UNICEF reports that, collectively, 272 million school days are lost to children being sick with diarrhoea–which is easily preventable from just having clean water to drink or proper sanitation facilities to use. But more than half of all primary schools in the developing world don’t have access to clean water, and two thirds don’t have proper bathrooms. UNICEF shares that in schools where handwashing interventions have been started schools mark anywhere from 20-50% greater attendance. In communities where clean water isn’t readily available, up to an hour walk or more, students actually attend school less.*
Clean hands and clear water matters.
Part of Edify’s school leadership training involves school visits and a needs-assessment. For schools that need proper handwashing stations, additional toilets, or access to clean water, the school proprietor or leaders will attend trainings on Conditions for Learning. These trainings involve a module on WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) and General Health of the School. By teaching the importance of proper handwashing techniques, installing handwashing stations outside of restrooms and eating areas, or creating separate gendered toilets, school leaders recognize the vital need to improve quality education through WASH interventions.
However, building additional bathrooms or handwashing stations is a luxury some schools can’t afford.
“Most of the challenge is in funds. In rural areas, some students even need to bring their own water from home. Access to enough funding is what slows schools down from having clean water, sanitary conditions, and proper hygiene facilities,” shares Dorcas Adwoa Aidoo, Edify Education Officer in Ghana. “Having toilets is a huge value for a school when parents are deciding to send their children there. School proprietors want to provide WASH services. It’s just a matter if they can.”
Since 2010, over 1,300 loans were disbursed to Edify partner schools across Ghana. Many of those loans have been used toward WASH initiatives. Since 2014, 90 percent of Edify partner schools who participated in the WASH training module have marked improvement in WASH interventions and developed an action plan for their school.
Quality education is influenced by curriculum, teacher training, and sustainable finances. But also by a student’s health and access to proper restrooms, hand washing, and clean drinking water. With Edify, our microfinance partners, and invested school leadership, we help foster healthy, growing students.
*statistics courtesy of UNICEF: https://www.unicef.org/wash/schools/washinschools_53115.html