Student power: boys and girls promote handwashing in their school and community
In the places like schools, where children learn and play, frequent handwashing with soap is one of the simplest ways of keeping them healthy
During a global pandemic, one of the cheapest, easiest, and most important ways to prevent the spread of a virus is by handwashing frequently with soap and running water.
Touching contaminated surfaces such as doorknobs, table surfaces and whiteboards can cause germs to accumulate on children’s hands. In the places like schools, where children learn and play, frequent handwashing with soap is one of the simplest ways of keeping them healthy.
At Urie Primary School in Owodokpokpo-Igbide, Isoko South, Delta State, boys and girls created an ‘environmental health club’ to promote handwashing with soap in their school and community.
12-year-old John Mark Okeghene, a member of the environmental health club, leads a session on handwashing with his classmates. He teaches them the importance of handwashing, the necessary steps, and why it is important to use soap during handwashing.
“I always tell my classmates to wash their hands, especially palm-to-palm, with soap, under running water,” says John Mark.
The environmental health club members also lead practical sessions during their lunch hour, when students gather to wash their hands before eating. The following step-by-step process is followed for effective handwashing:
Step 1: Wet hands with running water
Step 2: Apply enough soap to cover wet hands
Step 3: Scrub all surfaces of the hands – including back of hands, between fingers and under nails – for at least 20 seconds.
Step 4: Rinse thoroughly with running water
Step 5: Dry hands with a clean cloth or single-use towel
UNICEF’s effort in promoting handwashing with soap in schools, as part of a larger water, sanitation and hygiene programme funded by the European Union, highlights how important it is to involve children themselves as active participants and change agents for the health of their communities.
As schools begin to shut down in Nigeria to curb the spread of COVID-19, the schoolchildren carry the message of handwashing to their homes and neighbours. The responsibilities given to the environmental health club members also creates in them a sense of responsibility and ownership that makes good hygiene behaviours more likely to stay with them throughout their lives.