Egypt

Sanitation project in Upper Egypt empowers children to protect their environment

UNICEF Image: Egypt, Sanitation, Environment
© UNICEF Egypt/2008/Wiens
Fatima, 10, a student at the Tawayel El Sharqiyya school in Sohag, Egypt.

By Serene Assir

On World Water Day, 20 March 2008, UNICEF focused on the importance of sanitation and hygiene in reaching global goals for safe water. Here is one in a series of related reports.

SOHAG, Upper Egypt, 27 March 2008 – Admired by her peers at the Tawayel El-Sharqiyya School, Fatima, 10, is a natural leader. When Fatima speaks out about the urgent need to begin protecting the environment, the other students listen. She hopes they will also follow her example.

“I have learned a lot about how to keep the environment safe at school,” Fatima said. “Now, whenever I meet a child who doesn’t take care of the environment, I feel sorry for him, and I try and tell him ways to change his habits.”

Fatima’s commitment to improving environmental awareness in her school and village stems in part from the efforts of UNICEF’s School Sanitation and Hygiene Education (SSHE) project, which was launched last year. Hers was one of the 373 primary schools in the Assiut, Sohag and Qena governorates reached by the SSHE project. 

The project’s positive impact on the close-knit communities of the Upper Egyptian villages and towns has been manifold. 

Encouraging respect for nature

SSHE’s holistic, participatory approach is a central reason behind its success. Thus far, over 1,400 schoolteachers have received training on how to effectively deliver vital messages about the environment, sanitation and hygiene. The trained teachers have gone on to involve other school staff members in implementing these important messages.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Egypt/2008/Wiens
Trees planted on the grounds of Zarzara Elementary School.

For some of the children, the concept of respecting the environment was new. But many children in this rural area of Upper Egypt already possessed an inherent respect for nature, and the programme’s value was in emboldening them to turn their beliefs into actions.

“Now, when I see people throwing things away on the streets, I tell them not to do that,” said Islam, 13, who attends Zarazra Elementary School in Sohag. Teaching others to respect the environment has also taught Islam to respect himself. “Being so involved in the project on environmental awareness, I have also become more focused on my studies. I think this is because when you are good at one thing, you want to try your best in other things too.”

Commitment to the poorest regions

Growing up in Upper Egypt, the children in SSHE’s target regions are among Egypt’s poorest. By empowering these children and their communities to tackle their own sanitation and environmental issues, UNICEF and its partners in the Ministry of Education hope to empower them for life.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Egypt/2008/Wiens
Children wash their hands before lunch time at the Zarazra school.

“The Egyptian Government’s commitment has been crucial for the success that has been achieved so far,” said the Chief of UNICEF Egypt’s Young Child Survival and Development Section, Dr. Vijayakumar Moses. “We believe that what these children have learned from being involved in this project will contribute to their development and help them live healthier and more productive lives.”

UNICEF also provided the technical and financial support to rehabilitate bathroom and sink facilities in the target public schools, as a means of encouraging the children to practice better hygiene.

“If we are clean, then we face a lower risk of disease,” said Islam. “I believe fully in what we are doing for ourselves, and for the environment. I can see the whole town has benefited, and we must continue with our work.”


 

 

New enhanced search