Children and communities benefit from safe water facilities in child-friendly schools
Búzi District, September 2009 – Deolinda Faife is a sixth-grade student at Escola Primária Completa Marrongamisse, in the remote district of Buzi, a poor rural community living from subsistence farming, livestock and fishing, with no basic infrastructure such as piped water and electricity. As for many children in Buzi, especially girls, going to school was until recently a big challenge for her.
But the introduction of the Child-Friendly Schools initiative in 2007 has made it much easier for Deolinda to go to – and remain in – school. Last year, a water pump was installed on the school ground, providing safe drinking water for the pupils and the neighbouring community.
“Without this water pump I would have to get up very early to go and fetch water in the river, which is far away. Or I would have to take water from puddles after the rain, which is usually dirty,” says Deolinda as she pumps water into a plastic container with the help of her friends.
The lack of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities in many schools in the country – particularly in remote rural areas – often leads to increased school drop-out rates among girls as they have to walk long distances looking for water.
Over the past two years, approximately 25 new water points have been installed in several primary schools in Buzi under the Child-Friendly Schools initiative. At Escola Primária Marrongamisse alone, the water point benefits nearly 540 children and their families.
And this is not the only benefit. With support from UNICEF and partners, separate sanitation facilities with urinals were built in each of these child-friendly schools, and child-to-child School Sanitation Committees were also established. Children who are members of the committees are involved in the management of the water points and school sanitation facilities, ensuring cleanliness and proper use.
“It’s the children themselves who raise the awareness of their peers and community on the importance of safe drinking water and good hygiene practices such as washing hands and using clean containers for carrying and storing water,” says Mr Molinho Bacar Sobrinho, the school director.
The Child-Friendly Schools initiative also contributes to strengthening school-community link, with a particular impact on girls’ education.
“Parents are now encouraging their children to come to school because water is available for their use and hygiene. They are also increasingly and actively participating in school life, to the extent that some community members have been trained to repair the water pump in case of failure,” explains the director.
The programme aims to improve the quality of education in about 750 schools through a multisectoral, integrated approach. By the end of 2010, approximately 300,000 children are expected to be covered with a package of interventions which include rehabilitation and construction of schools and water and sanitation facilities, promotion of school hygiene and health education, provision of educational materials, promotion of child-friendly teaching/learning methods and protection of orphaned and vulnerable children, among other interventions.