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Healthy School - improving sanitary standards in schools located in semi-arid areas of Mbita constituency in Kenya

In Kenya’s rural areas, where 75 per cent of the country’s population lives, only 30 per cent of inhabitants have access to toilets safe for human health; 19 per cent use public toilets shared by several households, 36 per cent have access to sanitary facilities which are an affront to human dignity and a threat to human health (primarily overflowing latrines), and 15 per cent are forced to satisfy their physiological needs outdoors. The situation regarding access to clean water is equally catastrophic. Nearly half of inhabitants in rural areas use contaminated water, with as many as 28 per cent having access to surface waters only (WHO/UNICEF JMP 2015).

Since 2003, when Kenya introduced free primary education, the government has financed the education of every child for an amount equivalent to PLN 40 per annum. That amount has not changed over the past 13 years, despite the country’s high rate of inflation. The PLN 40 per pupil equivalent is all the school has toward covering running costs, including for textbooks, stationery, water and electricity bills, and repairs. At that level, government funding is insufficient to cover all of the current operating expenses; funds run out as early as the end of the first semester. Thus, those funds cannot be applied in any measure towards improvement and/or infrastructural works. Meanwhile, most of the educational establishments – particularly in villages – were built in colonial times.

The project involved 12 schools located in semi-arid rural areas of the Mbita district in western Kenya, one of the poorest areas of the country. The conditions under which children study endanger their health and their very lives. Buildings are in states of near-collapse. Where they exist, latrines are more than a dozen years old: they are overflowing and collapsing, and endanger the lives and health of the children. Schools provide no access to toilet paper, soap or detergents. In many cases, there is no water source on site. Where there is running water, there is usually just a single faucet per school, in which as many as 1,000 children may study. In direct contact with human excrement on a daily basis, children and teachers are exposed to cholera, typhoid fever and amoebiasis infections. The lack of toilets or the very poor condition of those that do exist and the limited access to water in primary schools results not only in a lack of hygiene and poor health of the children, but also in lower learning outcomes. This lack of toilets and personal hygiene products has the greatest detrimental impact on the educational achievement of girls, who stay home when menstruating. Schools facing such huge challenges usually give up completely on promoting hygiene. When there is no water source at a school, teachers feel powerless and see no point in repeating to the children that they should wash their hands.

Healthy School - improving sanitary standards in schools located in semi-arid areas of Mbita constituency in Kenya

This project was implemented by Fundacja Partners Polska (Partners Polska Foundation) and its Kenyan partner, Education Effect Africa, a non-governmental organisation, between 1 March 2016 and 31 December 2016. The project was aimed at 12 rural communities and their primary schools in the semi-arid Mbita district of Homa Bay County, and specifically at students, parents and teachers. Prior to implementing the project, these schools lacked safe sanitation facilities, their access to clean water was severely limited, and they offered no education on health or proper hygiene habits. The project aimed to develop school communities that would contribute to sustainable improvements in the health, hygiene, and safety of the children and the teachers at those institutions. This goal was achieved through a three-pronged approach: (1) support of school infrastructure through the construction of toilet facilities, rainwater harvesting systems and hand-washing facilities; (2) a health and hygiene education campaign aimed at changing relevant behaviour patterns among students, teachers, parents and other representatives of the local communities; and (3) institutional strengthening and competence-building of the educational institutions involved in the field of independent implementation of health education projects in their local communities.

Healthy School - improving sanitary standards in schools located in semi-arid areas of Mbita constituency in Kenya

  • One hundred two new sanitary facilities (of the ventilated improved pit latrine type) and 11 urinals were built at 12 primary schools attended by 3,500 children and 137 teachers in Mbita.
  • Fifteen rainwater harvesting systems were installed and 60 water access points were built at the same 12 primary schools in Mbita, for the use of those 3,500 children and 137 teachers.
  • Forty-four teachers and parents of children attending the Mbita district rural primary schools acquired advanced health safety knowledge through participation in a five-day training course on health, hygiene, sanitary safety and children’s rights.
  • In all the schools included in the project, a positive change in hygiene habits has been observed. The school grounds and latrines are regularly cleaned, the schools try to provide water for drinking and hand washing, and the students keep in mind the basic principles of hygiene.
  • Twelve educational institutions located in the Mbita district rural areas established school health committees with the task of monitoring sanitary standards.
  • Five educational institutions located in the Mbita district rural areas initiated income-generating activities that apply their profits towards the purchase of personal hygiene products.
  • Twelve public primary schools in the Mbita district villages developed and implemented plans to improve sanitary conditions and health education.
  • Through participation in health education activities, 3,489 children, 137 teachers and 1,224 parents and legal guardians improved their grasp of health and hygiene issues.
  • Three hundred posters on health, hygiene and children’s rights were distributed among the schools engaged in the project, and 12 murals were painted that present the proper way to wash one’s hands.
  • Twenty-four health and hygiene education campaigns were organised for the inhabitants of rural communities in the Mbita district, reaching a total of 6,452 people.
  • Five meetings were held between local authorities and representatives of the schools involved in the project, which enabled the educational institutions to lobby for improving health safety in primary schools.