Ensuring proper sanitation in rural schools is still a challenge. Access to safe water and provision of proper sanitation in schools are as important to acquire a quality education as books and pencils. Moreover, schools are an excellent platform for hygiene education and the learning of overall proper hygiene practices, such as handwashing, drinking safe water, and using hygienic latrines. BRAC WASH promotes hygiene education in all the schools in the programme’s areas. Additionally, the programme helps provide separate latrines for girls in secondary schools, since most girls reach their menstruating age during this time. For better management and maintenance of the facilities, school WASH committees and student brigades work in more than 5,600 secondary schools. Additionally, the schools are encouraged to create a fund to meet water and sanitation-related expenses.
Separate sanitation facilities for girls
The lack of separate latrines for girls and menstrual hygiene facilities in secondary schools were major factors in disproportionate rate of absence and dropout of adolescent girls. To address this issue, WASH aims to convince the secondary school authorities to provide separate latrines that have adequate water and waste disposal facilities for girls. As a result, more than 5,600 secondary schools throughout Bangladesh have constructed separate toilet facilities for girls since 2008. These schools have two toilets and washbasins which were installed through a cost-sharing basis.
Teachers at these schools hold regular sessions on menstrual hygiene, which were initially conducted by the programme staff. Sanitary napkins are now kept in schools in case of emergencies and girls can use them whenever necessary. They can also purchase BRAC’s sanitary napkins from their teachers, at a much lower cost than the commercially branded products. Moreover, aside from the cost difference, BRAC has found that many girls are more comfortable with buying napkins from the school rather than at the market.
Boys’ latrines and other new initiatives
Identifying the need for boys’ latrines in schools as well, BRAC WASH recently started providing separate latrines for boys along with pipe water systems in schools in rural areas. The programme has also started working in 71 urban schools to provide safe water, sanitation and hygiene education for the poorest children in the cities of Dhaka and Chittagong.
School WASH committee
To ensure sustainability of the WASH facilities in schools, school WASH committees comprised of 14 members are formed in each school, with the headmaster as chairperson and a female teacher as member secretary. In order to represent all stakeholders, members include teachers, parents, representatives from the school management committee, and the school cleaner. The committee meets on a monthly or a bimonthly basis to review activities, including latrine use and maintenance. The overall responsibility of the committee is managing, maintaining and mobilising funds for the school’s sanitation.
In addition to the school WASH committees, student brigades are established in these schools for better management and maintenance of the facilities. Each student brigade consists of 24 students, selected from classes 6 to 9. They receive a three-day long residential training along with their teachers. Student brigades are responsible for proper usage and maintenance of latrines as well as the overall cleanliness of the school premises. They also carry out WASH promotion activities with full participation from other students.
Training of teachers and hygiene lessons
In order to sustain good hygiene practices, WASH conducts hygiene sessions through school teachers on a monthly basis. One male and one female teacher from each school are trained on WASH activities and teaching methodology. The teachers are provided with specially designed flip charts and posters in order to educate their students on health and hygiene issues. They develop an action plan for effective implementation of and follow-up on WASH activities, and are assisted by BRAC’s WASH staff when required.
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