Taking charge: Pupils propel mural visibility in Zimbabwe
In Zimbabwe's waterborne diseases, homegrown murals are reminding school children and communities about hygiene importance
Harare, Zimbabwe-It is break time at Kuwadzana 2 High School in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, and Owen (15)’s mind is focused on two urgent chores: visiting the toilet and dashing for the lunchbox.
But three steps out of the toilet, he interfaces a mural inscribed with the words: “Good Hygiene. Good Health. Long Life.” And he immediately remembers the missing link.
“I have to wash my hands first,” he murmurs before rushing for a nearby tap water bucket. Laughter roars from some of his schoolmates next to the mural for the day’s session on hygiene education conducted by school health club members.
The orange is placed across a classroom wall next to the toilet block. Blue, red, yellow, blue and black illustrated washing hands from a tapped bucket before eating food, and the demonstration made the mural even harder to miss.
The school health club members, a group of 55 pupils, coined the message on the mural, supported by GOAL Zimbabwe and UNICEF.
“We considered the diseases that affect us the most, such as Covid-19, diarrhoea and typhoid. We realised that the solution is that people need good hygiene, and they will be in good health with good hygiene. After good health, you have a long life,” said Tafadzwa Chingono, a health club member. “Who doesn’t want to live longer,” she asked rhetorically.
GOAL Zimbabwe says the murals are aimed to reach 5,000 pupils at 74 schools in Harare and Chitungwiza. The murals act as collective thought spaces to create dialogue and raise awareness amongst pupils on hygiene issues. This activity is implemented under the Hygiene and Behavior Change Coalition (HBCC) project funded by the UK Government's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
The campaign is saving lives in areas that face threats of waterborne diseases, such as Kuwadzana. Taps that can provide running water are frequently dry. This forces people to rely on buckets filled at communal wells. “Some end up just taking hygiene for granted because of the water situation; we are there to remind them,” said Chingono.
The murals result in pupils and the broader community in the suburb taking their hygiene more seriously. Alexander Makoni, one of the health coordinators at Kuwadzana 2 High School, said that apart from a constant reminder, the mural inspires a generation of school children to act as ambassadors by preaching about hygiene issues back home.
“The children are the arrows. They are spearheading this campaign. We had feedback showing that people are now washing their hands even at home. Information is power. By empowering these children, we are empowering the entire community,” said Makoni.
He said the murals also complement existing WASH facilities, such as the provision of water buckets and soap and information dissemination.
About 40 kilometres in the south-eastern town of Chitungwiza town, members of the Zengeza 4 High School health club used their break time to create a garden next to the mural on a perimeter wall.
Some held hoes to make beds. Others used brooms to sweep the yard or were busy planting flowers, grass and palm trees. One pushed a wheelbarrow.
“We are trying to motivate others to be interested. If they see us working in this garden and they also see the mural, they will want to be involved,” said Shayne Kapikwa (14), a member of the school health club.
“The mural is quite a reminder,” chipped in school health master Fatima Mutonho. “Many of our pupils are now washing their hands more frequently and using the school WASH facilities.”
She said the club is also actively engaging some residents who use a space next to the school and a communal water point to dump their waste. Some even throw their litter over the perimeter wall into the yard schoolyard, prompting emotional engagement and campaigns such as clean-ups led by the school health club, said Mutonho.
Ownership of the campaign is vital, said Joselyn Ziwa, the WASH engineer for Goal Zimbabwe.
“The involvement of the children is vital for the campaign's success since the target recipients are the learners. They ensure that the message is fully understood and affected in the picture. The messages are by children, for children, so they take ownership of the campaign,” she said.
At Zengeza 4 High School, the mural’s homegrown text reads: “Wash hands with soap always. Stay smart. Safety safe.” We are the future.
“We are motivated by our past, present and future. Diseases that killed our grandparents should not kill us because we now know how to prevent them,” said Kapikwa, the school health club member, pointing at the mural.