Students in Papua New Guinea become teachers on Global Handwashing Day
By Nicole Harvey
“So lets wash our hands!
The voices of students from Tambul Primary School in the Western Highlands province of Papua New Guinea rang clear and true through the persistent drizzle as they sang the song they had written about the importance of handwashing. On Thursday 15 November, students in four provinces across Papua New Guinea were given the stage to raise their voices and educate their peers about how washing your hands with soap before you eat, after using the toilet and after changing the baby saves lives and prevents needless suffering from diahhrea, typhoid, dysentery and other diseases.
Mr Abel Wama, Headmaster of Alkena Primary School looked on proudly as students from Grade 6-8 performed three dramas for younger students, each focused on a different reason why washing hands with soap is important. Through playing the roles of mothers, fathers, teachers, community leaders and health workers, the students showed that handwashing and hygiene was everyone’s responsibility and how important it was to make sure Global Handwashing Day messages reach all members of the community.
Later in the day, Yano Primary School students travelled to Tambul Primary school to take part in a debate on whether or not handwashing was a “global concern”. The global availability of clean water and the threat of disease from failing to properly wash your hands were discussed by both teams and students in the audience were allowed to participate by asking questions at the end of the debate.
In PNG, diarrhoea alone is responsible for killing more children than measles, malaria and AIDS combined, and with the recent outbreak of cholera and dysentery, getting the message of practicing proper handwashing out to schools is critical. Also contributing to high levels of diarrhoea are poor feeding practices and lack of sanitation.
Tambul Primary School, Yano Primary School and Alkena Lutheran Primary School are just three of twelve UNICEF supported Child Friendly Schools in PNG’s Western Highlands District. The National Department of Education, the National Department of Health and UNICEF are working hard to ensure schools are fitted with proper sanitation equipment to improve enrolment and retention rates particularly for girls.
In PNG this year, over 25,000 students were involved in Global Handwashing Day activities in the Western Highlands, Eastern Highlands, Central and Morobe provinces. UNICEF donated buckets, soaps and handtowels not only to use during Global Handwashing Day celebrations, but to equip schools with the materials to ensure that students always have the resources to wash their hands properly with soap.
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