New School Sanitation Brings Positive Behaviours
By Sandra Bisin
Bagh, Pakistan-Administered Kashmir, October 2007 – As soon as their teacher calls for a short break in the morning’s session, all students in the class rush for the brand new UNICEF-sponsored water tank at the back of the school building.
Ten-year-old Hamid makes a fast move and is one of the first to reach the water tap. Amidst splashing and giggling, the little boy is able to cast a glance at Sobia, his teacher, who closely monitors access to the tap. The mischievous boy understands he has to let others in the queue also drink and wash hands.
In Pakistan, especially in rural and mountainous areas, lack of access to basic sanitation facilities is a major cause of the high number of children and infant deaths and poor health of children and women. It is estimated that 70 per cent of people living in rural areas of the country do not have access to basic sanitation facilities.
On 8 October 2005, a powerful earthquake struck northern Pakistan, taking the lives of over 73,000 people. Kander Kalas primary school in Bagh district, in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir, was one of the 8,000 schools that were destroyed by the disaster.
The catastrophe created an opportunity for UNICEF to provide improved services to communities located in these remote areas. From March 2007, UNICEF initiated the construction of transitional shelters in targeted locations to provide children with a safe learning environment. With a life span of 15 to 20 years, these transitional shelters are built in high-altitude, harsh weather locations where tents are not a long-term solution. In June 2007, Kander Kalas inaugurated its transitional shelter equipped with improved water and sanitation facilities.
In the past two years, UNICEF has supplied safe drinking water and latrines to nearly 303,000 students in over 3,200 schools in earthquake-affected areas. In addition, over 8,000 latrines were constructed in these schools, with UNICEF support. Nearly 4,500 primary school teachers were trained in school sanitation and hygiene education and more than 316,000 students received sanitation and hygiene education sessions.
“Hygiene education is key to the success of these new facilities at the school”, says Siyas, from Almustapha Development Network, a UNICEF partner in Bagh. “Parallel to the set up of water supply and latrines, we conducted a hygiene promotion campaign. Teachers and students had poor knowledge of good hygiene practices: most children were coming to school with dirty nails; they wouldn’t wash their hands before eating. With our sessions, we helped children and their teachers develop useful lifeskills on health and hygiene”
All children are now back in the classroom, working on their exercise books in silence. “Kander Kalas’ students are proud of their new school”, says Sobia. “It is a new incentive for them to go to school and it is such a relief for me as I know they can now concentrate on their studies.”