Making children the change agents
Singing of children resound the air as we approach to the Uddaramanahalli village government school in Sira Taluq of Tumkur district in Karnataka. A three-day children’s camp on personal and community hygiene has just begun under the guidance of UNICEF.
Cleanliness and hygiene can be achieved only when there’s a sense of ownership and participation. UNICEF along with its partners has worked with the idea of instituting students’ cabinets in schools. The cabinets, with various ministries like education, sports, health, culture etc., manage roles and responsibilities assigned to them. Having recorded stupendous success with this experiment, UNICEF has begun to expand this idea in other schools too.
“Our experience at UNICEF reveals that children are the best change agents at both home and in the community. We believe that if we target the children, they will in turn bring change in the family and thereby the entire community.,” says, Mrs. Sukanya Subramanian, Assistant Project Officer – Education for Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka at Hyderabad Field Office of UNICEF.
The session was about methodically washing hands before meals and after visiting the toilet: wet your hands, apply soap, rub both hands well and even clean the fingernails. The resource persons first demonstrated how to do it and followed it up with practicals for students. Thippesh and his friends were surprised to see for themselves the difference between washing hands first without and then with soap.
The second session discusses the roles and responsibilities of the school cabinets. Students point out the common roles to be performed by more than one student and also add or delete responsibilities to lend clarity to each student’s role.
Day two of the workshop is much more interesting, for, it’s participatory. Participant students and teachers conduct a ‘Village Sanitation Survey’ (VSS). Villagers stand up and take notice even as young students in uniform carry placards and shout slogans on health and hygiene taking out a procession through various village streets. . The VSS is intended to impress upon the students the importance of community hygiene. VSS makes the students realise the importance of community hygiene.
Post lunch, it’s time for practicals again. Participants learn to prepare a soak pit and a compost pit. “The idea behind constructing a soak pit is to re-direct the waste water from the taps to a pit which can improve ground water level and to avoid stagnation leading to diseases from mosquitoes,” says Ramya, a fifth standard student. The day concludes as students learn about toilet sanitation.
Day three is full of activities and fun. On one side a play on Ram and Shyam conveys messages on the benefits of a clean environment and on the other side a quiz on the learning and effectiveness of the exercise, challenges the students. There are also games like ‘students on paper’ stressing on the importance of using toilets and avoiding open defecation.
Post lunch focus is on the various charts enabling the students to maintain a weekly record of personal and school hygiene. The three-day event concludes with the workshop anthem—the swatchate song.