UNICEF Zimbabwe scaling up WASH in schools: Pilots innovative group handwashing station
Global Handwashing Day and World Toilet Day
As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 outbreak, a new and innovative Group handwashing concept, is being introduced by UNICEF in many countries to improve hand washing practices and piloted at two schools in Zimbabwe.
This cost-effective concept helps ensure regular hand washing in schools to improve hygiene, health, and education levels of learners in under resourced communities. This is also in line with the current WHO regulations for COVID-19 preventive measures.
” The idea behind this facility which is close to the (school) entrance and near to the classrooms is to make it accessible to everyone and foster the practice of hand washing at a very young age,” said Terence Chanakira, UNICEF WASH Officer.
The group concept drives children to encourage each other to wash their hands regularly, and in some countries where it has been rolled out, children also take the time to sing and teach each other good hygiene practices while demonstrating the proper ways of hand washing.
” The idea behind this facility which is close to the (school) entrance and near to the classrooms is to make it accessible to everyone and foster the practice of hand washing at a very young age”
in previous methods of hand washing, where children jostle for a few taps of water deprived many from washing their hands properly and many would resort to eating their break or lunch packs without washing their hands.
But the scheduled group hand washing concept guarantees that more children will wash their hands and enjoy the group dynamics.
The concept of hand washing has been recognized and mainstreamed into the UNICEF Three Star Approach (TSA) to WASH in Schools (WinS) which is designed to improve the effectiveness of hygiene behavior change programmes. The approach ensures that healthy habits are taught, practiced and integrated into daily school routines.
It has also been established that group activities have a natural way of scaling up inclusion and fosters participation as well as interaction of pupils.
“With this concept more children wash their hands at the same time while facing each other and encouraging one another to properly wash their hands. It is a simple concept but goes a long way in changing behaviors on hygiene practices,” explains Chanakira.
The children are encouraged to wash their hands at critical times like after using the toilet before they eat and when they have touched dirty surfaces.
“So, the more they do it together, the more they internalize it and when they go back home, they start to encourage others.
Explaining how it works, Chanakira said it was a simple concept and 10 children will be able to wash their hands at the same time, five on each side and facing each other.
“There will be one lever to open up the ten points, so it makes sense if they are using it as a group. We are trying to run away from the tap system,”
“We picked two schools for demonstration and advocating to the Ministry. The plan is to then roll it out in the country and depending on funding we are targeting 500 schools initially,” he said.
The Head of Prospect Primary School, Irene Zviripi is elated at the new development.
“Concerning the COVID 19 pandemic it is important that the children wash their hands regularly and we really appreciate the hand washing facility. During break time they need to wash their hands and this facility will help them to stay as clean as possible before consuming their food.”
Inclusivity in WASH components…leaving no one behind
As part of the WinS programme, UNICEF has embraced an inclusive approach to close gaps and deliver in a more holistic way – not only empowering the education system but ensuring all students fully benefit including on issues around menstrual hygiene, disability, age and others.
“If you are looking at it from the angle of inclusion there is a lot of structures in schools which may not be friendly to those living with disability. So some may end up not coming to school because there are no structures that will support them for their personal hygiene,” said Chanakira.
Processes like hand washing and using the toilet need to be tailor-made and designed specifically for those with disabilities.
“One of our strongest points of emphasis is inclusivity. These days we are in the era of the SDGs and our focus is to ‘leave no one behind,” he said.
He pointed out that there were many dynamics such as genders, where facilities for boys and girls needed to be separated and designed to suit the varied needs.
Girls during their menstrual cycle have specific needs and requirements in terms of their hygiene.
The hygiene enablers for girl’s menstrual management include access to more safe water and hand washing facilities.
“If there is no access to water and separate facilities, the girl child may not come to school during her menstruation days and miss out on her education,”
As part of the inclusive package, UNICEF has also been advocating for the separation of these facilities by age as well to ensure that younger students also have easier access to hygiene facilities.
“We also want the teachers to have their own facilities to ensure there is no mixing with students,”