Every year on October 15, the world commemorates Global Handwashing Day – a day set aside to raise awareness, recognizing the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective disease prevention method. Diarrhoeal disease, often contracted through contaminated water sources and poor hygiene practices, is the second leading cause of death for children under five globally. Yet this disease is almost entirely preventable and treatable; in fact, current rates of diarrhoeal disease could be cut in half through proper handwashing alone.
In Botswana, The
The initiative is centered around the use of a toolkit comprising twelve lessons focused on basic WASH education, planning, and monitoring of water-use and performance. The toolkit and its implementation are managed by students who voluntarily serve as leaders on the School WASH Management Team, with support from teachers and school administration.
Student ownership of this project is key to the long-term adoption of the hygiene behaviors it promotes. The WASH Management Teams monitor WASH conditions at schools, spread WASH knowledge among their peers, and serve as role models by demonstrating proper WASH practices. Through this structure, students are empowered to take responsibility for WASH in their school and encourage uptake of personal hygiene improvements.
For example, the toolkit teaches students how to construct tippy taps – simple and cost-effective handwashing stations. These structures can be made within minutes anywhere on school premises, providing instant access to handwashing facilities across campus. The benefits of students’ improved WASH knowledge ripples through the community. Students can construct tippy taps in their homes and spread improved handwashing behavior to their communities and families.
These conditions were, in part, due to limited awareness about the importance of WASH among students across Botswana. Less than 1% of students in participating schools could pass the basic WASH knowledge test before this project began. By the time all toolkits are implemented in schools it is anticipated that every student will be able to pass the test.
Global Handwashing Day serves as a reminder to all that proper WASH is key to global health and development. When students have safe, clean learning environments, can use the toilet with dignity, and are empowered to take care of their school and community, their potential is endless. Through RAIN, students across the country are gaining important leadership skills, confidence, and healthy habits to become the future leaders of Botswana.
THEY CALL ME WASH
By: Oreneile Enerst
I was born in a place
I told my mother RAIN
To this day,
My name is Water
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