In 2017-2018, the average student at our school missed seven days due to illnesses, most caused by poor hygiene.
Our school outhouses currently are located 200 meters from the school building, and do not include stall doors. This means that the design and location of the toilets are not only problematic for menstruating students, but make handwashing difficult because handwashing stations are in a different building. Thus, many students do not wash their hands after using the toilet, causing poor hygiene.
In the fall, students enrolled in Health Education received information about handwashing both after using the restroom and before eating. Both habits were equally enforced. Teachers now observe that these students wash their hands before eating, but still do not wash their hands after using the toilet. Since the sinks are already in the cafeteria, handwashing is much easier before eating than after coming all the way from the toilets. Therefore, we believe that by combining information with improved access to sanitary facilities, we will improve community hygiene.
The school community created a plan to build an indoor bathroom to improve privacy and security for students, as well as to improve general hygiene. In the fall, we will construct an indoor restroom. Before school begins we will train teachers to change behaviors around handwashing and general hygiene. Teachers will implement these strategies in their classes to minimize the spread of germs. Health Education classes will continue lessons about hygiene, and students in Health Club will work with the school nurse to implement a campaign about personal hygiene.
With improved access to information and sanitation facilities, we hope that this project will provide community members with the tools they need to reduce the occurrence of transmissible diseases, and increase overall school attendance.
During a teacher's meeting, staff discussed possible improvements to the school infrastructure. Both an indoor bathroom and improvements to the cafeteria were discussed, but 20 teachers verbally voted for the construction of an indoor bathroom.
In a parents meeting, 46 parents of students from 4th grade and 31 parents of 9th grade students also verbally voted for the construction of an indoor bathroom and voiced support for a campaign about personal hygiene.
After a discussion with the medical doctor to confirm that transmissible diseases (such as cold and flu) were indeed prominent among school-age children, she agreed that education about hand washing and personal hygiene is necessary in the school. She also was the first to recommend an additional focus on menstrual education. She is willing to visit the school and participate in a lesson or campaign to provide materials in the fall. We also will have some workers who have volunteered to help with construction over the summer.
Additionally, in April, the 22 health club members were asked what topics they wanted to focus on in the year to come and what health campaigns they would like to create. The most popular response by far was “personal hygiene”.
The health club will continue to do activities for world handwashing day and continue to conduct activities around the subject of handwashing and personal hygiene.
Good cleaning and upkeep of the bathroom will also be important for maintaining good hygiene. Homeroom teachers will discuss with their students how to use an indoor restroom, and the custodial staff will be invited to these discussions as well. The health club will make signs for the bathrooms reminding students to keep the bathroom clean and hygienic.
The teachers will have the knowledge and skills to correct future behaviors, and the students will also have the knowledge to be able to effectively teach and encourage their peers to continue hygienic behaviors.
Additionally, open discussions between the school nurse, health club, and female students will begin to break open the taboo around menstruation and allow for a more supportive atmosphere for menstruating students in the future.