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Students learn the ABC of hand washing

© UNICEF Mozambique/Emidio Machiana
18 year old Odécio Mário (Yellow T-shirt) chairs a session on hand washing at Nhanhubua primary school in Quelimane, Zambézia province. October 2008.

Quelimane (Zambezia Province), 15 October 2008 - The 3rd grade students at Nhanhubua primary school, in the outskirts of Quelimane, were in for a surprise this morning when they returned to their classroom after the break. A group of fellow students had replaced their maths teacher and taken over the classroom.

The students were members of the school’s sanitation committee and they were on a special mission: promoting better hygiene practices.

“Who knows how to wash their hands?” asked 18-year old Odecio Mario, the leader of the group, kicking off the session with a mischievous smile.

Odecio is the chairperson of Quelimane’s Forum of School Sanitation Committees, which brings together sanitation groups from 27 primary schools in the area. He has been a member of the group since he was 14 and is now an old hand at these surprise demonstrations.

A few students raised their hands and excitedly wiggled their fingers to grab his attention. Odecio invited some of them to come to the front of the classroom, where two buckets of water, a bar of soap and a towel are placed on the floor.

“OK then, show us how you wash your hands at home; your colleagues would also like to learn from you,” said Odecio with a grin.

The students headed for the buckets of water. Some washed their hands without using the soap; some washed their hands with the soap but inside the bucket; others washed their hands with the same water already used by other colleagues.

© UNICEF Mozambique/Emidio Machiana
Fani (blue blouse) and Sonia (brown T-shirt), both 12 years old, teach other children how they should wash their hands with soap, after using the school lavatories at the Nhanhubua primary school. October 2008.

“Is this right?” Odécio asked the class.

“No!” most of the pupils shouted vigorously, in between bouts of laughter.

With the pride of people who know what they were doing, 12-year old Sonia and Fani, who are both members of the sanitation committee, took the class outside to the girls’ lavatories, and before the curious and attentive gaze of the other children, gave a brief demonstration on how to wash hands correctly with running water and soap.

School sanitation committees are composed of students, teachers and school management. The groups raise awareness of good hygiene practices through debates, dance, songs and theatre in the classrooms and in neighbouring markets and communities.

Providing safe water and adequate sanitation facilities in schools and promoting good hygiene practices among students is part of a programme supported by the European Union and UNICEF in the provinces of Sofala and Zambezia.

In addition to supporting the school sanitation committees, the programme includes the construction and rehabilitation of 220 water sources in communities and in schools, the construction of 25,000 family latrines and 240 sanitation and hygiene infrastructures in primary schools over a 5 years period, from 2006 to 2010. It also provides training to health and education authorities and community members.

The partnership aims to increase the capacity of local authorities to plan, manage and monitor sustainable initiatives to provide water and sanitation infrastructures.



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