In 2017, The Water Trust partnered with Mutunda sub-county in Kiryandongo district with the objectives of universal coverage of basic water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) across all 18 government primary schools, benefitting directly more than 14,000 children and indirectly the more than 40,000 people that live in the students’ communities.
Prior to the intervention, 66% of schools in Mutunda sub-county had a functional water point within 0.5 kilometers, 75% of latrines needed rehabilitation or emptying, and only a single handwashing facility in a single school. In addition, only one of 14 rainwater harvesting tanks installed within the last 5 years was functioning. The inadequacy of WASH was particularly acute for girls. Only 17% of schools had safe, private spaces for menstrual hygiene management. Anecdotally, many teachers noted that girls’ attendance was lower because they feared to defecate in the fields or use the boys’ latrines.
The project invested in construction to ensure every school had a working water point, separate boys’ and girls’ latrines, and handwashing facilities. Notably, the project employed user-centered design of handwashing facilities, locating the facilities between the latrines and classrooms and “nudging” students to walk by the facilities with clear pathways. In addition, the project invested in teacher training and coaching to improve both school management and teaching practices to improve the maintenance and financial planning for facilities and student instruction on hygiene, including a competition for students to win small prizes for building handwashing facilities at home.
At the project’s conclusion, 89% of students observed using the latrine were observed washing their hands with soap, and handwashing facility coverage in the area is estimated to have increased from 5% to 21%. Facility maintenance practices improved dramatically, however, in the one-year project period the challenge of establishing a clear revenue source for future repairs and pit emptying remains unmet.
Build handwashing facilities intentionally.
This project avoided the common practice of constructing handwashing facilities on the back of latrines with rain water harvesting tanks supplying the water. The abandonment of the previously constructed tanks suggested this approach would not be sustainable. In addition, the placement of these tanks – out of the normal pathway of students traveling to and from latrines – fails to follow basic principles of behavior change. Intentionally placed handwashing facilities encourage use and in turn can achieve significant impact on handwashing behavior.
Put the District Education Office (DEO) at the center of the program.
The project’s success depended critical on collaboration with the DEO. Inadequate coordination prior to the project led to the unpleasant surprise that the district was moving most teachers to new schools, resulting in 65% of teachers in Mutunda sub-county transitioning to new schools at the project’s inception. Shortly after, The Water Trust held meetings with all key stakeholders, including the DEO, district water office, district health office, chief administrative officer, and sub-county administrator.
The Water Trust staff were co-located with the sub-county government office to ease communication. This proved helpful when several school programs were introduced during the project period, competing with the project for the time and attention of school staff. The DEO also played a critical role in addressing an uncooperative head teacher. Through this experience, the DEO has become an active advocate for WASH in schools, notably handwashing, across the district. The office is now actively promoting head teachers to include WASH in their operating budgets and supporting schools in sourcing funds from education programs. It is worth noting, however, that the DEO benefited from the leadership of a highly- engaged, highly-motivated civil servant – key factors in the success of this collaboration.
Integrate student-led, school-wide drives to collect materials for handwashing facilities.
School-based programs can increase their impact by changing behaviors at the village-level. While the impact of this project on village-level handwashing facilities was significant, it could be increased. In our key stakeholder discussions, students often cited a lack of jerrycans as an obstacle to building their tippy taps. They were not aware that they could use a number of other alternatives, such as water bottles, although this concept was noted in trainings. In the future, rather than bring a limited amount of ideal supplies (e.g., jerrycans), it may be more effective to work with the teachers and students to collect materials, such as a school drive to collect water bottles. It is critical to instill an understanding that handwashing facilities are feasible irrespective of funding in order to maximize the impact on household hygiene.
Dynamics between schools and villages often need improvement.
Theft and vandalization are threats to infrastructure sustainability, and poor community sanitation practices can limit the impact of hygiene promotion at school. In this project, several facilities were vandalized (and then repaired by the school management committees). In addition, focus group discussions suggest that students without latrines at home are less likely to build handwashing facilities there. In addition, it was necessary to help improve poor school communication on how school fees were spent to increase community willingness to contribute funds for critical school needs, including infrastructure maintenance. Relatedly, discussions also suggest that parental trust of head teachers varied. This project’s efforts to improve the clarity of school budgets and plans for operations and maintenance resulted in an increased willingness to pay, although additional work is needed to mobilize adequate resources.
Deeper collaboration with education programs is an opportunity for scale and impact.
There are significant synergies with the education sector that can be harnessed to further both sectors’ goals. Both education and WASH depend on school management, teaching, and curriculum quality. There is an opportunity to integrate hygiene promotion in a manner that improves student performance on exams, psychosocial-skill building, and behavior change, provided there is also an enabling environment to encourage behavior adoption. Menstrual hygiene, which was not an explicit focus of this project, likewise can be integrated. Looking forward, The Water Trust aims to collaborate and partner with education NGOs to build robust, scalable curricula that adequately addresses hygiene and sanitation, a school management training program that adequately addresses operations and maintenance, and stronger handwashing facility and menstrual hygiene support standards for schools.
A full evaluation report will be available shortly. If you would like to receive a copy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project was possible with the support of Vibrant Village Foundation, Slattery Family Foundation, the Steve Willis Memorial Fund, and our community of supporters.