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No, especially when starting up new initiatives external funding is essential to demonstrate the problem and its potential impacts. In many developing countries, certainly the initial capital costs for construction of WASH facilities will not be covered by national or local government budgets unless they (and the people who vote for them) are convinced of the importance of WASH in Schools.... we all know that people learn more from experiencing that something works than from being told that something will work.
Today, I first time read the list of proposed indicators on WASH in schools. How happy was I to see that WASH in schools is considered important, even so important that a list of separate indicators has been developed. Considering that in the original version of the MDGs, water was mentioned and sanitation and hygiene was forgotten… and considering that WASH in schools was not covered at all… I realize a lot has been achieved!
At the same time looking at the proposed indicators, I was wondering if this is a Wish-list or a realistic vision on what can be achieved in the next decade or so.
Having visited many WASH in school programmes in all parts of the world, even the best WASH in schools interventions I have seen, do not comply with the list of indicators. Schools are part of society, schools are part of the community… how can we expect that all schools have access to water and sanitation when the surrounding community hasn´t and is not expected to do so under the proposed Post-2015 goals? And there are other issues. (1) How can we reliably measure so many indicators? (2) What about teachers? Aren´t they the ones who have to make this happen, teach about hygiene, supervise that toilets are properly used, taps do not waste water and that children wash their hands when they are told to do so. Why do they not get separate toilets, a place to use when they work long school days with 2-3 shifts? Or get some recognition about their role. (3) Has it been proven that more girls come to school when there are places for menstrual hygiene?
Answering the questions on the “right direction”… I think it is BUT we have to be realistic in putting the targets. If not, we will chase for something that cannot be achieved. This will lead to disappointment and disbelieve in change and ultimately to cynical visions on improvement. For that I would urge to have a new look at the indicators making them realistic and doable!
WASH Specialist and author of many publications on WASH in Schools
Considering where we stood 10 -12 years ago, we have not failed. WASH in Schools is on the agenda and more and more people are interested in the subject.
Of course there are still many challenges and needs for improvement. Financing is limited and more scientific research is needed on its impacts and consequently those working in WASH in Schools should stop making claims on impacts that cannot yet be proven (particularly related to girls attendance and drop-out) and focus on what can be proven (increased knowledge on hygiene, reduced WASH-related diseases).
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