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WASH - improving sanitary safety and health of children attending public primary schools in the rural areas of Bungoma County in Kenya

Based on UNICEF and WHO data, it is estimated that 45 per cent of the inhabitants of Kenya’s rural areas have no access to clean water and that only 29 per cent of that population has access to safe toilets, meaning those connected to septic tanks or sewerage systems. Those exposed to the greatest risk are children, who face risks that can lead to loss of health or even life, this being true not only in their home environment but also in the educational institutions they attend. Schools in Kenya have not been able to cope with the numerous children being left in their charge, neither in terms of the teaching process nor in terms of the available infrastructure. The financial condition of schools has deteriorated, effectively precluding them from pursuing any infrastructure-related investment or renovation projects. As a result, students and teachers are forced to use overflowing and decaying toilets, and have no access to water, soap or toilet paper. Unfortunately, cholera, typhoid fever and amoebiasis infections are not uncommon in such conditions. The sense of helplessness of the teaching staff in the face of financial problems can be seen in their failure to undertake educational activities aimed at sharing basic knowledge about health and hygiene.

This project serves to improve access to safe toilets and water intakes in 10 primary schools in Bungoma County in western Kenya, which is expected to translate into improved health of the students and staff in these schools. In addition to the infrastructure module, the project will also put an emphasis on providing students, teachers and students’ parents and guardians with education conducive to positive change in their health-related behaviour and to the development of competencies in this area.

Fundacja Partners Polska has carried out a number of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) projects for rural schools throughout Kenya since 2011; these projects have been funded by, among others, Polish development aid (under Health Schools I and II, the Safe Schools for Kenya programme). During that time, the foundation has mobilised the construction of nearly 200 toilets and the installation of dozens of rainwater harvesting systems, and has promoted health education among 15,000 children and teachers irrespective of the encountered sanitary conditions. Each one of the aforementioned projects has passed through internal and external evaluations, and the foundation has been taking into account the conclusions of these evaluations in its subsequent editions of the programme. Years of experience have shown clearly that a three-pronged approach to the challenges of poor sanitation in schools is the most effective, which includes support on the infrastructure side (construction of toilets responsive to the needs of girls and boys, and of water access points); health education aimed at children and their teachers, and members of local communities; and strengthening the institutions that contribute to a sustainable shift in behaviour patterns towards those beneficial to health, hygiene and education.

WASH - improving sanitary safety and health of children attending public primary schools in the rural areas of Bungoma County in Kenya

The ‘WASH – Improving the Health Safety and Well-being of Primary School Children in the Rural Areas of Bungoma County, Kenya’ project was implemented by Fundacja Partners Polska in partnership with Education Effect Africa, a Kenyan NGO, in 10 schools in Bungoma County in western Kenya; these schools included Baraki, Kuya Kimalewa, Milembe, Honorable Wetangula Sango, Sikulu F.Y.M., Chenjeni, Chebukaka Boys, Chebukaka Girls and Kibichori.

The initiative was aimed at the most impoverished strata of Kenyan society: school-age children living in marginalised rural regions. The conditions under which students from the schools engaged in the project pursued their education prior to its implementation constituted a risk to their health and lives. The absence of toilets or their very poor condition plus limited access to water in the targeted primary schools resulted in lack of personal hygiene, poor health and low learning outcomes.

Effectively, through implementation of the WASH project, we registered an improvement in the sanitary conditions prevailing in the ten public educational institutions, which altogether provide schooling for nearly 8,000 children and which employ 170 teachers and auxiliary staff. The project enabled the construction of sanitary facilities that are hygienic and safe for human health, and that meet the specific needs of girls and boys, as well as the installation of rainwater harvesting systems and drinking water access points. Infrastructure works were accompanied by institutional strengthening measures for the participating educational units, which involved the establishment of school health committees composed of representatives of school administrations, teachers and the student body. These committees are competent to monitor and improve the sanitary standards in their immediate environments. With the assistance of Kenyan health experts, educational institutions have expanded their school curricula to include sustainable children’s health, hygiene and safety promotion activities. Such regular and intensive education has transformed the behaviour of children and teachers, helping them adopt habits conducive to better health and hygiene. Primary schools have also become the initiators of health-related changes in their immediate social environments; they have organised educational campaigns promoting sanitary safety, health and hygiene in their local communities.

The project contributed to the advancement of the healthcare priority and, in a particular way, to the advancement of the specific objectives of increasing the number of drinking water intakes and sanitary facilities and of promoting hygiene, as set out in the 2015 Development Cooperation Plan.

WASH - improving sanitary safety and health of children attending public primary schools in the rural areas of Bungoma County in Kenya

  • A total of 81 toilets of the new ventilated improved pit latrine type and eight urinals were built; 15 rainwater harvesting systems (comprising water tanks and gutters) were installed, and 77 water access points were constructed in 10 primary schools located in rural areas of Bungoma County.
  • Thirty-nine teachers and parents of children attending Bungoma County rural primary schools took part in a five-day training course devoted to the topics of health, hygiene, sanitation and children’s rights.
  • The 10 educational institutions located in rural areas of Bungoma County established school health committees, with the task of monitoring sanitary standards.
  • Ten separate plans for improvement of the sanitary conditions and health education in Bungoma County rural primary schools were developed and implemented.
  • Members of school health committees delivered a total of 171 educational sessions on health, hygiene, sanitary safety and children’s rights for the benefit of 7,682 children, 170 teachers and 1,736 parents and legal guardians. The total number of children attending the health education classes there stands at 46,464.
  • Three hundred posters on the subjects of health, hygiene and children’s rights were distributed among the schools engaged in the project.
  • Ten murals presenting the proper way to wash one’s hands were painted in the same schools.
  • Twenty-eight educational campaigns were organised for the members of Bungoma County rural communities, reaching a total of 9,060 people.
  • Six meetings between local authorities and representatives of the schools involved in the project were held, which enabled the educational institutions to lobby to improve sanitation and health safety in primary schools.