Hygiene in schools matters!
By Bjørn Lyngstad, UNICEF Turkmenistan
Good schools are not only about good teachers and good textbooks. They are also about having decent and hygienic lavatories and promoting positive hygiene practices.
Ziyada (16) and Hojadurdy (16) have been pupils at School number 45 in Gubadag district for almost nine years by now, and they have seen their school improve a lot over the years. The new toilet facilities for boys and girls were built with the support of UNICEF four years ago.
“All the pupils here are very happy about the new facilities,” said Ziyada and Hojadurdy.
Ziyada added that especially the girls tend to care more about the toilet facilities and that they discuss these things amongst themselves. Providing hygienic, safe and separate lavatories for girls is important, especially when they reach puberty. To teach pupils about hygiene practices is also important as it reduces cases of diseases caused by water-born infections. This also means that it reduces the occurrences of children missing school.
To upgrade the sanitation facilities of schools is just one part the effort UNICEF puts in to make schools child-friendly. School number 45 in Gubadag is one of 20 schools throughout Turkmenistan to receive special attention from UNICEF. The goal is to work with the local authorities to make sure that these schools are becoming progressively more child-friendly.
A Child Friendly School (CFS) creates an environment conducive for learning by respecting children’s rights and needs; it provides clean, healthy and safe facilities; it gives children the life-skills they need by employing interactive teaching methods that are suited to the child’s age, abilities and ways of learning; and it includes parents and the community in the management of the school.
Teachers receive training on new and innovative teaching methodologies and the schools are supplied with games and other materials for stimulating psychosocial development, books and dictionaries and lab and science equipment. All of this helps create an environment where the pupils are happy, and happy children learn more and enjoy learning! On top of this pupils are more actively involved in classes and teachers tell UNICEF that this makes their job more interesting as well!
These child-friendly schools in turn serve as a model that other schools can aspire to emulate or even better.
As part of Turkmenistan’s overhaul of the educational system, the government has decided to extend basic education from nine to ten years. That means that Ziyada and Hojadurdy will be in the first cohort of pupils to attend a tenth year. But after nine years of studying you must be a bit tired of school and ready to move on, wondered UNICEF. “Not at all. This is an exciting opportunity for us to learn more. Education is important,” Ziyada and Hojodurdy agreed.
Ziyada’s favourite subject is Algebra, while Hojadurdy prefers History. The two have also learnt about the UN and its work in Turkmenistan. “We know about UNICEF and its work through our teachers,” said Hojadurdy.