Play and Learn in The “School Sanitation Festival” - Hue, October 2007
Hygiene and sanitation education in schools has been an effective communication channel to promote behaviour change to adopt good practices on hygiene and sanitation for children. This also is a long-term strategy for communities to change their current practices because children will be the “agents of change”, who will disseminate their knowledge to other members in their families.
Working with other National and International Agencies, UNICEF has focused on providing assistance to set up many models of “child-friendly latrines” including Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities in the selected schools in the poor and remote rural mountainous areas of Vietnam. Furthermore, researches and practices recently have shown that IEC activities for children through “Edutainment” are more effective in improving knowledge for children than other one-way and passive communication methodologies.
Organizing School Sanitation Festivals is a new initiative introduced by UNICEF in close collaboration with Ministry of Education and Training (MOET). This is the first time this activity was implemented in two piloted schools in Phu Loc district, Thua Thien Hue province: the secondary school “Lam Mong Quang” in Vinh My commune and the primary school : Su Lo Dong” in Loc Dien commune. In 2006, these two schools had received assistance from UNICEF to construct “child-friendly” latrines and to conduct some IEC activities on hygiene and sanitation in schools.
In order to prepare for the festival, UNICEF and Student Affair Department of MOET produced a “step-by-step” guideline on how to organize the festival and distributed to the schools. The preparation was also assisted by Thua Thien Hue Education Department and teachers of the two selected schools. On 21st and 22nd September, the festivals were organized in the two schools with the enthusiastic participation of teachers, pupils, representatives of parents, representatives from line ministries, and community leaders. The festival programme included eight main parts: meeting, musical performance, knowledge quiz, hand-washing and toilet cleaning competition; drawing contest; sanitation forum, and dialogues with local leaders .
Through edutaining activities and group works, messages and basic knowledge on environment sanitation and hygienic were illustrated vividly by pupils with poems, songs and music performances. Especially in Lam Mong Quang school, pupils and teachers created an alarming system with simple electric equipments and the Q&A contest in computers which helped to make the festival very exciting. In the dialogue with local authority, the children also showed their concern about local environment sanitation problems. While in Su Lo Dong primary school, children performed songs, acted plays very lovely. The hand-washing contest with soap and latrine cleaning was responded enthusiastically by the pupils. Thanks to their works, the latrines become clean, shiny and friendly, not something made them scare to come in whenever they have urgent need to use. Looking at pupils dressing in self-designed costumes and teachers were busy with the logistic preparation, one could see that the atmosphere of festival was really exciting. Being interviewed after the festival, all teachers said that “despite all worries and tiredness of the preparation, we have never been so happy and proud. We hope that there will be more similar opportunities for pupils to play and learn, and hence to change their hygiene and sanitation practices in the furure”.
The success of the pilot School Sanitation Festival is the first step to change hygiene and sanitation behaviour for children in schools. In the coming period, MOET will work close with UNICEF to support the same festivals in other provinces. The content of the festival was recorded by Hue Junior Reporter Club as a documentary film. Based on lesson learns from this first organization, the guideline will be adjusted and sent to other schools together with documentary film in CDs as a reference documents. In order in increase the sustainability of this activity, MOET will issue a guideline on how to organize School Sanitation Festival. Besides, schools should actively mobilize local fund to organize the festival if the external financial support is not available. This festival is a useful playground for children as it not only helps to improve their knowledge and practice on sanitation and hygiene but also to raise their skills of teamwork and responsibility for community. On behalf of Thua Thien Hue Department of Education and Training, Mrs. Le Thi Anh Dao said that in the near future, DOET will coordinate with local schools to organize more festivals in the province. Ms. Le Thi Son, senior officer of MOET also expressed optimistically that in the future, the model of School Sanitation Festival will be replicated in nationwide scale.
A survey carried out by MOH and UNICEF in 2006 revealed that only 15.6% interviewees often wash their hand with soap after defecating. The figures on environmental sanitation is even more alarming with only 18% household and 12% schools in rural areas have hygienic latrines according to the Ministry of Health’s standard 08/2005/QD-BY. Meanwhile, National Target Programme on Rural Water Supply and Environment Sanitation 2006-2010 targets up to 2010: 100% schools and 70% households in rural areas have hygienic latrines. In order to reach this ambitious target, it is necessary to have a big and comprehensive investment both on construction and improvement of IEC activities on hygiene and sanitation at community levels.
In 2006-2007, WES Section, UNICEF funded about US$650,000 to support the construction and rural water and sanitation facilities in school as well as IEC activities. The target beneficiaries are kindergartens, primary schools and lower secondary schools in rural and remote areas.
School latrines supported by UNICEF are designed as “child friendly” latrines which are not only meet the MOH’s standard but also look nice, with enough light and have hand-washing facilities (basins, taps, soap etc) and are convenient for use. Moreover, they need to have seperate rooms for boy and girl
At present, UNICEF coordinates with the Institute for School Design, MOET to develop a standard design for “child friendly” latrine. The draft version has been sent to line ministries and departments for comments. The standard design of child friendly latrine is expected to be issued by MOET by the end of 2007.
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