|© UNICEF Indonesia/N0103P1|
|“Little doctors” in Indonesia promoting hygiene|
The mothers of Banjar Sari in Indonesia beam with pride as they watch their children performing in the primary school play. But the mothers are more than entertained by the young actors, they are also learning valuable lessons about the importance of boiling water, washing their hands before preparing food or eating and disposing of refuse properly.
The actors are members of ‘Dokter kecil’ or little doctors, a primary school project funded by the government of New Zealand and supported by UNICEF. This school club, consisting of 30 students from grades four to six, promotes hygiene through community theatre and other lively, interactive activities.
The discussion about water, sanitation and health continues long after the short play’s final curtain. The children bring the lessons home. The mothers say that they are getting the message and are changing their hygiene behaviour.
"The little doctors are becoming leaders, learning to communicate clearly and effectively…"
The students’ work of improving the health of their community goes beyond their theatre productions. They also take charge of the village’s Jum’at Bersih (Clean Friday), a national movement, begun in 1994, that encourages hygiene promotion during meetings on Islam’s holy day. When the Dokter kecil club began in 1998, it took the lead in improving the community’s sanitary environment by upgrading drains, clearing debris from around the mosque and working on a school herb garden.
The little doctors are becoming leaders, learning to communicate clearly and effectively, to problem-solve, negotiate and analyze. As future mothers and fathers, they are also ensuring hygienic environments and better health for tomorrow’s generation. But the benefits are already happening today.
“With a clean environment people don’t become ill,” said 13-year-old Zarkasi. “So our concentration for studying isn’t disturbed and we learn better in school.”
With UNICEF’s push for cooperation among sectors, it is not surprising that this water and sanitation education project is closely tied to the sub-district’s health centre. A centre doctor provides health check-ups for the school children and other members of the village, coming weekly to distribute free medicine and discuss hygiene issues with the students and the teachers. The doctor’s lessons are incorporated into Dokter kecil’s newest plays, which remain the most effective medium for getting the word out about water, sanitation and hygiene.
“People love drama, and parents especially love to see their children perform,” said one of the supervising teachers. “It is far more effective than telling people directly to change the way they do things.”