Globally, 2.1 billion people lack access to safe, readily available water, and 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation. This is especially problematic in schools, where many pupils and teachers gather every day, and diseases like Covid-19 can spread easily if water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) provision is lacking.
From 13th to 17th of March 2023, the first ever International Learning Exchange on WASH in Schools (WinS) took place on the African continent. The annual event, which was held before in South- and South-East Asia for 10 years, was hosted in Grand-Bassam in Côte d’Ivoire. The jointly organized event by UNICEF and GIZ brought together 103 participants from 26 different African nations like Kenya, Mali, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa and Zambia, as well as Sweden, USA, Germany and the Philippines.
Partnering for an improved access to WASH in Schools
The learning exchange provided an opportunity to connect Ministries of Education and their key WASH in Schools partners (NGOs, INGOS and development partners), while providing partners with a forum to explore concepts for regional and global collaboration on WASH in Schools and related emerging thematic areas with global experts. The country teams also had the opportunity to present their respective experiences, fostering a stronger exchange between different African countries and other stakeholders. This also enabled them to draw lessons from each other’s experiences and tools to stimulate and facilitate sustainable scaling-up of WASH in School programming in their respective countries.
School visits, discussions and practical lessons
The 5-day event also included school visits to give participants the chance to observe on-the-ground activities and facilities, Monitoring & Evaluation systems, and have discussions with teachers, learners, and the school management staff to draw on their practical lessons.
NatuReS teams from Zambia and South Africa supported the event together with key stakeholders from their respective countries, and shared insights from their work implemented and planned around WASH in Schools.
Experiences from South Africa and Zambia
The country team Zambia comprised of two partners from the NatuReS programme, as well as the School Hygiene and Nutrition (SHN) Director from the Zambian Ministry of Education and the LuWSI Coordinator. The SHN Director presented the current state of monitoring of WASH in relation to the SDGs in Zambia and also shared the successes with regards to budget allocation towards the roll-out of reusable menstrual hygiene pads.
The South African team, which just started a work package around WASH in Schools as part of a DeveloPPP project with Unilever, used the insightful event to connect with key stakeholders and learn more about the WinS approach.
Innovations for taking WASH in Schools to the next level
The learning event also brought out several innovations in WinS like the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) currently being applied in teacher training schools for Infection Prevention Control in Malawi. The event was also characterised by exhibits of various innovative products like cost effective group handwashing facility designs, reusable menstrual pads and more. By exchanging experiences and sharing best practices, participants aim at taking WASH in Schools to the next level!