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School Sanitation and Hygiene

Formative Research in Schools: a basis for hygiene promotion in schools.

School toilets across the world are among the least popular places. School toilets are often dirty, highly inappropriate, and unfriendly; they often lack essential items such as soap, anal cleansing materials and sometimes water. School toilets, unquestionably, would benefit from being cleaner and friendlier places.

Schools are more than places of knowledge sharing:

they often become centres of disease transmission. Several studies highlight the potential for inadequate hand washing and sanitation facilities in schools to contribute to the spread of gastrointestinal infections among children. From diarrhoeal diseases, Hepatitis A to intestinal worms, all these diseases have detrimental effects on children's cognitive and educational achievement.

From Egypt to Peru - not a problem of continents, school toilets everywhere tend to be plainly disgusting. (picture by Plan Egypt)

Besides the epidemiological evidence of poor sanitation and hygiene in schools, it has been reported that this can account for the drop-out of young girls from education. It has also been shown that one of the factors of adoption of latrines in adulthood is linked with exposure to latrines during childhood.

On-going research:

The application of social marketing to develop an effective hygiene promotion programme.

Social marketing can give us the approach needed to make a difference. Social marketing provides a systematic process to follow, that ensures campaign materials are based on research rather than on one person's idea of what looks good. Social marketers know that to create effective programmes, they must talk (and listen) to the people in their target audience to find out what they want and need, as well as what would have the greatest effect on changing their behaviour.

That process of interaction is done through a 'formative research'. If you were pre-occupied the whole day with your need to pee, would you concentrate on Maths? (picture of a Burundian classroom by Myriam Sidibe)

The formative research is therefore the initial inquiry needed before the programme is developed, which uses basic marketing research tools to find out what the customer wants. A formative research for schools will identify information on how best to reach school children, teachers and head teachers, and which messages are most effective in motivating behaviour change.

This formative research will assist in developing a comprehensive strategy based on research, the key messages to be conveyed, and which media would be most effective in reaching the school as a whole, with a common objective of improving school hygiene. But how to do it in schools?

The format currently employed, as explained in the. Happy, Healthy and Hygienic booklets, has been developed for investigating mothers in households and is not suitable for schools or for school children.

Children often do not want to lose one minute of playtime with their friends - can that be used as a motivator for hygiene?

Major Outcome of this research:

Formative research format for schools: a simple step-by-step tool that can be used to understand, document and feed back motivations of school actors (pupils, teachers and head teachers) into a communication programme to schools.

The initial testing site is in Dakar, Senegal. The host institution is the National Office for Sanitation in Senegal. The other collaborating partners in Senegal are: Unicef Senegal and the Water and Sanitation Programme of the World Bank.

School Hygiene a fun activity? Kids in East Timor cleaning their latrines (picture by Unicef East Timor).

Anyone interested in knowing more about the school sanitation and hygiene project at the Hygiene Centre, contact Myriam Sidibe or Adam Biran

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