Bright handwashing stations, colourful messaging on personal hygiene, rainwater harvesting and water conservation, along with the five steps for handwashing in a playful manner are making the school children of Government Higher Primary Schools in Raichur not just healthy and happy, but also agents of behaviour change.
Handwashing is the most cost effective health intervention that helps save lives. It is a well-established fact that handwashing with soap and water has an important role in contributing to good health and hygiene.
Handwashing with soap or ash at critical times like after using the toilet, before eating or cooking or feeding infants/children is estimated to reduce diarrheoal diseases by 47%, almost by half.
Repeated bouts of diarrhoea before the age of two can result in a condition where the body fails to absorb essential nutrients affecting the physical and cognitive growth of a child. This often leads to a situation called ‘stunting’. It is defined as children having low height for age and indicates that children haven’t developed as they should. Also, by the simple act of handwashing, acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia can be reduced by 23% that will further reduce infant and child mortality, another pressing health problem in India.
An effective way of avoiding similar health problems is by empowering school-related institutions to change hygiene behaviour by directly reaching out to the communities to sustain handwashing behaviour at critical times.
Here is how Government Higher Primary Schools in Puchaladinni, Heerapur and Duganur villages in Raichur district of Karnataka are working towards a healthier life for not just their students but also their families through the simple act of handwashing!
Colourful, clean and functional handwashing stations have been constructed keeping in view the health and hygiene of children in government schools in Raichur, Karnataka.
The handwashing stations are designed in a way that children of any age can access the water taps, irrespective of their height. While the groundwater through borewells is used most of the time as the primary source of water, during monsoons the overhead tank is filled with rainwater through rainwater harvesting systems which is readily available for use after filtration.
The various illustrations with messages on the walls of the handwashing stations keeps reminding children about the five steps of handwashing with soap and water, the benefits of keeping their hands clean and also conserving rainwater.
At the Government Higher Primary School in Puchaladinni Village, Raichur, children practice handwashing every day, and learn more about the positive aspects of clean hands with the help of many play activities, as well as singing songs and conducting discussions with the their teachers.
12-year-old Narsimma (in front), and his classmates from class 6 practice handwashing every day! While some of them are the members of the School WASH Committees, others actively participate in all similar activities. (WASH: water, sanitation, hygiene)
Children in some of the most remote villages of Karnataka now have access to water to not just drink, but also wash hands and maintain personal hygiene. Rainwater as a result of rainwater harvesting is a major source of water at these government schools post the monsoon season with a systematic structure to conserve it. These handwashing stations have not just been instrumental in inculcating the habit of cleanliness and hygiene among children, but also in teaching them how rainwater can be conserved and thus be used from time to time.
To ensure effective and sustained handwashing, schools act as a good starting point as children are always more receptive. Not only are they quick to adopt good practices also sustain the behavior change being inculcated. They then become agents of change among their peers, families and communities. By empowering school-related institutions, it is possible to directly reach out to the communities to sustain handwashing behaviour at critical times.
The five steps of handwashing are practiced everyday by the school children across government schools in the remote villages of Raichur, Karnataka. As also recognised by the United Nations, the five simple steps of handwashing are the key to a healthier life. During hygiene classes conducted by teachers and a student in-charge, these five steps are discussed and practiced diligently. Schools also conduct regular meetings with the parents to discuss sanitation and hygiene issues.
A School WASH Committee meeting in progress in Government Higher Primary School, Heerapur Village, Raichur. School WASH Committees regularly conduct meetings to collectively discuss issues related to water, sanitation and hygiene.
Coming from remote villages in Raichur district, these school children are also agents of behaviour change as they pass on the information to their family members. Their understanding about clean hands and its impact on health is making a huge difference to not just their lives, but also of their families.
*All photos by Mansi Thapliyal / WAI