Children learn good hygiene habits from each other
By Naimul Haq
GAIBANDHA, Bangladesh March 2009 : Dust and rubbish are kicked up as the children run around the streets of the driverpara - drivers’ neighborhood- in Gaibandha, north-west Bangladesh.
The village – so named because most of the men who live there drive busses or trucks – lacks basic amenities such as drains and garbage bins; latrines are unhygienic and water is unsafe.
However, there is a festive atmosphere here today. The children are dressed in their best clothes and are chatting excitedly while they wait for the beginning of the group session about hygiene.
“It’s fun to unite at such a gathering. It’s so lively and entertaining,” said Asha Akhter, student of class III.
“To most of us the gathering is like a festival,” said nine year old Jemmy. “We play, sing and have fun during the session.”
Today’s courtyard meeting is the second in a series of interactive lessons aimed at educating children about personal hygiene.
The informal educational sessions, called childrens’ clusters, are part of the UNICEF/ Government of Bangladesh Sanitation, Hygiene Education and Water project in Bangladesh (SHEWA-B) . Here in Gaibandha the project is facilitated by the local NGO Shamaj Kallyan Shangstha.
“We have no teacher as such. We select one of us as our leader to conduct an informal session. Here we learn about personal hygiene by teaching one another,” said Samuel, another young participant and Asha’s neighbour.
Community hygiene promoters, like Farhana Boby, give support support the children during the lessons. “I assist the children in organizing their learning session but I don’t really play a direct role while the session is in progress,” Farhana said.
“Once they select their leader I sit with him or her to advice on how to transmit messages on hygiene. There is no formal teaching; the idea is to promote self-learning through enjoyment.”
The messages on personal hygiene discussed in the sessions are simple. “We talk about trimming nails regularly, washing our hands before eating and after going to latrine,” said Juwel, a student of class IV.
The SHEWA-B project was initiated by UNICEF and the Bangladesh Government in 2007 and is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
The main objective is to reduce mortality, morbidity and malnutrition due to water and excreta related diseases, especially among women and children. The project is being implemented in 31 municipalities across Bangladesh.