BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
|Mr Samuel Manteaw launching the call to action|
The Ghana Education Service (GES), under its School Health Education Programme (SHEP), has launched a call to action in the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in basic and second cycle schools across Ghana, dubbed WinS.
Launching the call at a workshop in Accra December 13, 2011, on behalf of the management of GES, Mr. Samuel Manteaw, Director, Human Resource, GES, said “The factors related to water, sanitation and hygiene in schools affect children’s right to education in many ways.”
“In an atmosphere of poor health, children are unable to fulfill their education potential. WASH in schools programmes therefore foster healthy and safe school environment that protects children from health hazards, abuse and exclusion,” he added.
Samuel Manteaw stated that all children need sanitary and hygienic learning environments, with the lack of such conditions in schools having a stronger negative impact on girls especially, as she spends long hours in search of water at the expense of her education, in areas where water is scarce.
According to him, such situation contributes to absenteeism and a high drop-out rate among school-age children.
“After the home, the school is the next important place of learning for children, where they spend over half of their time. Therefore their sanitation demands and practices are likely to impact positively or negatively on them.
“If sanitary facilities are available, children will maximize learning opportunities through improved health. However, when these are absent, or are badly maintained and used, schools become risky places where diseases are transmitted,” Samuel Manteaw said.
For her part, Mrs. Ernestina Afosah-Anim, Greater Accra Regional Director of Education, in her welcome address to stakeholder participants, stressed; “Fulfilling every child’s right to water, sanitation and hygiene education, remains a major challenge for policy makers, school administrators and communities in many countries.”
She disclosed that from a group of developing countries surveyed, it was noticed that less than half of primary schools have access to safe water, while just over a third have adequate sanitation.
The regional director of education divulged further, that another report from over 60 developing countries surveyed, revealed that only 33 provided data on access to water in primary schools and 25 on sanitation, adding that the lack of comprehensive data for WASH in schools is one barrier to securing the rights of children.
According to the director of education, available evidence indicates that although water and sanitation facilities in schools are increasingly being recognized as fundamental for promoting good hygiene behaviour and children’s well-being, many schools still have very poor facilities, whilst for some, none exist at all.
Hence, she said, the call to action is aimed at expanding WASH in Schools (WinS) programmes, to improve health, foster learning and enable children to participate as agents of change.
It further calls on decision-makers to increase investments and for concerned stakeholders to plan and act in cooperation, so that all children go to child-friendly schools with water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
The call to action for WASH in schools is a new global campaign for water, sanitation and hygiene in schools. It is the result of a collaboration between CARE, Dubai Cares, Emory University Centre for Global Safe Water, IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, Save the Children Fund, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Water Advocates, WaterAid, Water for People and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In a presentation on the call to action, Ms. Ellen Gyekye, SHEP, explained that WASH in Schools helps fulfill children’s rights to health, education and participation and enjoys widespread recognition for its significant role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those related to universal access to primary education, reducing child mortality, improving water and sanitation and increasing gender equality and equity.
She outlined six action points of the call, which are all geared towards greater participation by all stakeholders, including investment in water and sanitation facilities and better policies to ensure priority is given to hygiene education and WASH in schools.
|Some of the participants at the launch|
Other presentations made at the workshop and launch were the Policy Framework for WASH in Schools by Mrs. Grace Owusu Kakra, Director, SHEP; Minimum Standards for WASH in Schools by Mrs. Loretta Roberts, UNICEF and baseline studies on the state of WASH in Schools in the Central and Northern regions of Ghana, by Mr. Stephen Ntow, WASHealth Solutions and the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) respectively.
Also presented were a countrywide 100 Schools Survey on Sanitation and Hygiene (which in fact covered more than 300 schools) done by Mr. Kweku Quansah, Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate and the key findings of a year-long sanitation campaign launched by the Ghana Watsan Journalists Network (GWJN) in 2010, dubbed “Drop it in a Hole”.