Providing education in clean environments

Educational Journey with EPHAT MUDENDA
SCHOOLCHILDREN ought to know that diseases like cholera are as a result of poor hygiene practices.

School authorities, just like parents and guardians at home, are expected to put in place measures aimed at ensuring that young people’s rights to education are fully promoted through hygienic environments.
Clean water (for drinking and other purposes), well-built infrastructure, which includes toilets and, in the case of boarding schools, bathrooms, as well as programmes that encourage healthy behavioural patterns in general, must be present in school.
When such an environment is provided for learners, then their rights to education, good health and participation will have been fulfilled, at least to a large extent. But where sanitation is poor, water is either scarce or dirty, and hygiene behaviours are not appropriate, then the environment in a particular institution will inevitably be detrimental to the health of children, who spend long hours in school.
Oftentimes, schools are places where young ones easily get sick because most of them have limited ventilation, lack hand-washing facilities, with no soap for pupils, and toilets are dilapidated. It is places like these where diseases spread very rapidly.
But with adequate facilities in which there is improved sanitation and water supply in an educational institution, whether boarding or day school, several successes, among them gender equality, can easily be achieved. Besides, there can be increased access to quality education and a reduction in the disease burden among children, especially with regard to diarrhoeal diseases like cholera.
Life skills-based hygiene education is also important in the students’ educational journey. While it is good to teach children about the facts regarding health risks and bad hygiene practices, it is even more important that the learning process focuses on completely changing their hygiene behaviour, that of their families and the hygiene behaviour of society in general so that people’s quality of life improves in the long run.
Therefore, both practical and theoretical information should be imparted to children. For instance, they should be made aware that worm infections are caused by poor hygiene in environments where they are found. So, it follows that for them to be in good health, they have to be clean all the time. Washing hands to prevent infection and diseases is a good practical example of maintaining high levels of hygiene among learners.
Methods aimed at helping students to master hygiene skills should be participatory in nature. This is because young ones almost always enjoy and benefit from more participatory educational approaches. It is from their own actions, and those of their friends, that they truly learn while they are actively involved in various activities. In this way, they easily and quickly learn and adopt new skills and concepts.
A hygiene club in a school set-up can help in ensuring that authorities are always alert to the hygiene needs of pupils. Schoolchildren in such clubs are expected to be actively involved in advocating healthy lifestyles among their peers at school and in the community where they come from. As they learn about desirable hygiene behaviours in school clubs, they can be trained as peer educators who should help in spreading messages of good hygiene both within and outside the school.
Parents and other community members can be involved in keeping schools clean, safe and healthy through activities organised by parent-teacher associations, among other forums.
Indeed, children’s right to education and good health should be respected by creating healthy environments in which there are high levels of hygiene, both in school and at home. In this way, discipline and sanity are bound to be upheld in adult life. As responsible citizens, therefore, they will positively contribute towards the country’s socio-economic development.

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