SEVENTEEN schools in the Western Division of Fiji have been recognized for ensuring children have access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities in their learning environment.
Following Cyclone Winston in 2016, and in response to emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) needs in schools, UNICEF through the Fiji Teachers Association and Ministry of Education provided support to 67 schools affected by the cyclone.
This included workshops for teachers, restoration of basic facilities such as toilet blocks and taps for handwashing, and the upgrading of water systems.
“These 17 schools are shining stars, and the success of their efforts are clear,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative to the Pacific.
“With the support of their communities, they have worked hard to ensure that children have safe and functional toilets in their learning environments, soap at all times for handwashing, and that these facilities are accessible, private, clean and girl friendly.”
WASH in Schools promotes a Reach for the Stars initiative that uses a three star rating. The stars are awarded when schools ensure proper toilet and water infrastructure are in place, and when successful efforts have been made to improve hygiene. Schools also must ensure healthy habits are taught, practiced, and integrated into daily school routines.
During the ceremony held at Natawa Primary School yesterday, a school awarded three stars, success stories were shared by students and teachers, a poem was read and children demonstrated what they learnt to stay healthy, including handwashing.
“Together with our partners, we provided support to ensure that children returning to school – even to temporary learning spaces – avoid disease by using functional water and sanitation facilities and practice good hygiene behaviours,” said Mr Yett.
“Better hygiene leads to improved health in children and their families, regular school attendance, and performance. During an emergency this also restores a sense of normalcy to both affected children and their and communities.”
Of the 17 primary schools participating in the three stars award ceremony today, 5 achieved 3 stars for providing clean water, facilities and teaching hygiene, with the remaining 12 reaching two stars.