Children and community members speak about water and sanitation in schools
Maputo 28 September 2006- The UNICEF report Progress for Children: A Report Card on Water and Sanitation shows that the lack of water and sanitation in schools is still a problem in many countries of Eastern and Southern Africa.
In Mozambique, the number of children in primary schools increased from 1.7 million in 1997 to over 3.8 million in 2006. However, about 70 per cent of the schools in Mozambique still do not have adequate sanitation and access to safe water is still a constraint in many of them.
Lack of water in schools affects children
Angelina Mabasso is a member of the School Council at Coca Missava Primary School in Chibuto (Gaza province). She explains how the lack of safe water is affecting students, including her son Themba. The school has improved latrines but to date there is no water point. There are only two rainwater trapping cisterns.
“There is only water at school when it rains. When the school runs out of rainwater, each child has to bring their own water from home,” says Angelina.
This situation is prejudicial to many children, she explains. “My son Themba suffers from asthma; he cannot go and fetch water. Because of that, very often he has to leave school and go home whenever he is thirsty.”
“When I have no water at school, I run home to drink water,” says Themba, nine years old.
The water shortage problem at school affects the cleanliness of the latrines, which has a detrimental impact on children’s health.
“Themba tells me that the latrines at school are good, but they are not cleaned adequately because there is no water. They become very dirty,” says Angelina.
The report Progress for Children points that children perform better and have enhanced self-esteem in a clean, hygienic environment. Properly used and maintained sanitation facilities and an adequate supply of water for personal hygiene and hand-washing also prevent infections and infestations.
The report also concludes that providing adequate water and sanitation in schools is essential to improve enrolment, learning and retention of girls. Lack of appropriately private and sanitary facilities has a greater impact on girls than boys, contributing to decisions on whether they ever attend, and then influencing how long they stay in schools. Programmes that combine improved sanitation and hand-washing facilities with hygiene education in schools can improve the health of children for life and can promote positive change in communities, says the report.
Benefits of adequate water and sanitation in schools
Fifita is in grade 7 at Fidel Castro Primary School in Xai-Xai (Gaza Province). She moved to this school last year, and since then she has been very happy because she has access to water.
“In the other school, there was no water. And at home we do not have access to water,” Fifita says. “I felt happy when I moved to this school because there is water for drinking and for cleaning”.
She also liked the latrines. “The latrines here are very good. There are separate latrines for boys and girls, and we can wash our hands after using them”, she says. Fifita believes that in this situation she will continue to study well and see her dream of becoming a teacher come true.
Penny also attends Grade 7 at Fidel Castro Primary School, in Xai-Xai, (Gaza Province). Because he wants to become an electrical engineer in the future, Penny participates actively in all school activities and has been a member of the School Council since last year.
For a long time, his school did not have adequate sanitation facilities. Penny describes his school before and after installation of the water source and construction of improved latrines.
“Until last year, there was no water to wash hand after using the latrines. Sometimes, we used to eat our snacks without washing our hands”, he says. “After using the toilet or if we did not want to eat with dirty hands, we had to go the surrounding houses to ask for water for washing hands.”
He says that the installation of the new latrines and access to water facilities has contributed to educating children on hygiene, through the school’s Sanitation Committee.
“Now that we have water at school, we can educate and teach other children to wash their hands after using the latrines and to keep them clean”.
Improved access to water and sanitation has had a positive impact not only on the school but also on the community. To ensure that primary schools in Mozambique have adequate water and sanitation facilities, UNICEF has been providing financial support and technical assistance to the Government of Mozambique to install or rehabilitate school water supply systems and separate latrines for boys and girls.