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Yes they are No they are not
Debate Score:12
Total Votes:13
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 Yes they are (5)
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Are JMP Post-2015 indicators on WASH in schools a step in the right direction

The JMP Post-2015 Working Groups have published a "Draft Long List of Goal Target and Indicator Options for Future Global Monitoring of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene". The working groups on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene have each included targets and indicators for WASH in schools. Have they got it right or should they start again from scratch?

The results of this first e-debate will serve as an input for the public consultation of the JMP Post-2015 Working Groups, which ends on September 20.

This is the first of in a series of three WASH in Schools e-debates scheduled for the coming months. The topics are inspired by questions asked during the implementation of the SWASH+ Project, an action-research school WASH project in Kenya.

For more information about the e-debates, including an overview of the proposed WASH in schools indicators, go to the WASH in Schools website.

Yes they are

Side Score: 8
Winning Side!

No they are not

Side Score: 4
2 points

In the original version of the MDGs, water and sanitation were grouped as part of goal 7, to ensure environmental sustainability. There is considerable evidence that improved water, sanitation, and hygiene at home can lead to reduction in diarrhea and respiratory infection among children under 5. However, in the 2015 MDGs, the direct individual benefits of water and sanitation were not specified and hygiene was not mentioned. Whereas the previous WASH indicators do not address the quality, quantity and reliability of water supply, the new indicators specifically call for safe, affordable, and sustainable access. The post-MDG indicators are a step forward, but due in no small part that the previous ones were so limited.

In the 2015 MDGS, there was no mention of WASH in institutional settings, such as schools. There is now some limited evidence that WASH in schools can improve health, support an enabling environment for menstrual management, improve gender equity, and lead to reduced absence. Safe water, sanitation and hygiene-care practices are essential to ensuring that children get the best start in life; that they are able to enter school healthy, alert and ready to learn. The lack of WASH in schools indicators in the 2015 MDGs may have led to a lack of attention and funding. Without adequate indicators and data, it has been difficult to make appropriate policy decisions by national governments to prioritize WASH in schools. The post-2015 MDGs attempt to mitigate that gap. We need to continue to build our efforts not only in empirical scientific evidence but also in our practical know-how around WASH in schools.

Clearly, the proposed list will need to be paired down, however, the proposed indicators on WASH in schools by the JMP Post-2015 Working groups address the multi-dimensionality of WASH access – reliability, sustainability, safety – that were lacking in previous versions. In addition, there is a strong equity component missing from the 2015 MDGs, which led to the world “achieving” the water target, even when the poor were mostly excluded from access. Collection of the Post-2015 WASH and WASH in schools indicators will focus attention on health and development aspects of improved WASH and help target funding towards sustainable, safe, and affordable access by donors and governments.

Side: Yes they are
2 points

Clearly the list of indicators is too long at the moment. The final indicators, like the 2015 MDG targets, will need to be simple and monitor-able. The problem with this, as the list of existing suggestions indicates, is that school WASH is more complex than most of us imagined (and than most people still imagine). Like all public services, to be sustainable, school WASH involves financing, governance (including institutional support to and accountability of service providers), technology choices and associated supply chains, and social/normative change. The list is daunting. And Matt has rightly pointed out that having no measure of hygiene in the last MDGs was a mistake. Hand washing is still a lagging practice wherever we look, despite its paramount importance.

As they can never hope to measure both the level of service and the systems necessary to sustain those services, these indicators will exist basically to create political will and spur increased investment. From my perspective, a reasonable proxy for this would be to include perhaps one simple metric for water, sanitation and hygiene services each plus one metric on investment levels (perhaps an amount/pupil/year?) that can spur funding allocation decisions.

Side: Yes they are
1 point

WASH activities should be included as Individual Goal, unlike that included as a part of Goal No-7 in earlier MDGs. Researchers have already established that the fact that improved WASH activities are the prime need in all fronts including Household and Community level to create far reaching impacts on HUMAN health.

So WASH activites should be a new Goal with renewed focus on the following :

(a) Water Safety and Security including Water Quality Monitoring and necessary precationary / remediation measures.

(b) Priority water scarce / quality affected regions.

(c) Monitoring mechanism for use and maintenance of Sanitation facilities to address bottlenecks leading to slipping back from coverage pattern.

(d) Total Environmental Sanitation including the proper Solid and Liquid Waste Management activities.

(e) Facilitating Operation and Maintenace for WASH infrastructures in households as well as Instititions like, Schools, Community oriented facilities etc. eventually to ensure sustainability.

(f) Instituionalised approach for capacity development to establish social equity / norms for the alround development of the communities with special thrust for the marginal sections.

(g) Massive approach on Hygienic practices for personal / food Hygiene.

(h) Aiming on effectiveness of WASH in Schools, the teachers / students community should be targetted as a major stakeholder with enhanced capacity / involvement.

(i) Necessary efforts / action plan during EMERGENCY SITUATION causing large scale displacement of human habitat. Adequate WASH activities must be prioritised for such displaced population.

(j) Impacts of regions specific Climate Change

(k) Lastly and not the least, the political WILL and SUPPORT for establishing the desired mandate.

Thanking all.


Nripendra Kumar Sarma

Public Health Engineering Department, Assam(India)

Guwahati, Assam(India)

Side: Yes they are
dietvorst(42) Disputed
1 point

Dear Nripendra, your argument does not focus on the topic of this debate: are the specific indicators on WASH in Schools, as formulated by the JMP Working Groups, a step in the right direction. You can find a list of the proposed WASH in Schools indicators at

Side: No they are not
Nripendra(4) Disputed
1 point

I agree that the Indicators put forward by the JMP Working Group are one step in right direction.

But the point, I like to highlight here is that the WASH Activities should be included as Specific GOAL, under which the Wins might be included as a sub Goal.

I tried to emphsise on different lines of focus to be considered as agenda under the specific GOAL of WASH Activities. So that the lines of action will be pinpointed to achieve the desired direction.



Side: Yes they are
1 point

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!

Annemarieke Mooijman

WASH Specialist and author of many publications on WASH in Schools

Side: No they are not
1 point

I am also happy that School WASH now forms part of the MDGs. In Malawi almost 25% of the population are enrolled in primary schools – so it is obviously a big constituency. To highlight the importance, in 2011 the WASH sector in Malawi adopted School WASH as part of the “headline indicators” that must be reported in the annual WASH sector performance reviews in order to track performance.

However, I think that the indicators will only tell us how much resources have been mobilised, and how many facilities have been built. They will not tell us much about the quality of the facilities as they are used, and therefore, I have to vote that the proposed indicators do not take learners and teachers forward very much.

As someone with many years of experience in school WASH I think that the emphasis is still far too much on facilities, at the expense of quality of facilities. Of course facilities are essential, but research here shows that most often the facilities are poorly designed, poorly constructed, poorly used and poorly managed, making, for example, the use of school toilets an unpleasant experience for most children and teachers. I also have to admit that many of us stakeholders involved in school WASH do not have a strong understanding of how facilities can be designed to make them more user-friendly and easier to manage and maintain. These designs don’t have to be so complex. First of all when children visit the toilet (at least in our Malawi experience) most want to urinate not shit. Urinals are essential component of school WASH as they make toilets less crowded, less messy, less smelly, and they are cheaper to construct per post than toilets and can accommodate more children per unit time than toilets. When it comes to toilet design, it is almost always a dark, smelly pit latrine, with a squat hole that is neither of the right size or the right position (and these will be considered to contribute to the total tally). It is also easy to make a couple of the girls’ toilets a bit bigger to accommodate changing, and also perhaps a friend who can accompany the girl. It’s also amazing to think that teachers’ toilets are often forgotten and then the teachers have to commandeer a student’s toilet, which then makes the student per toilet ratio even higher. Shouldn’t teachers’ toilets should be a little more special to uplift the status of teachers.

It appears odd that JMP does not admit that shared toilet facilities are “improved” because of the (I think sometimes false) assumption that shared facilities are not always well managed, and yet we know that many, if not most school toilets facilities are not well managed.

One tool that I have found useful is the Service Delivery Approach that is developed by IRC, and can be easily adapted to school WASH – this has 4 criteria of access, durability, usability and environment.

School have many demands – toilets being only one of them. Many parents find it strange that partners can invest thousands of dollars on school toilets when classrooms are dilapidated, there are not desks, no books etc, so we also have to have a bit of proportion when we are designing and investing in school WASH. Quite a challenge!

So will the indicators tell us how many children and teachers are happily using nice clean toilets? I am afraid not.

Side: No they are not
1 point

I support Annemarieke's views that the indicators need to be realistic and measurable. It doesn't look like with this wish list (though I assume the "long list" is meant to create debate and to be narrowed down).

In addition, I think the WASH sector should fully focus on WASH at the community/ household level and hence set only targets for household/ communities. WASH in Schools issues need to be tackled by the Education Sector as part of Quality Education/ Child Friendly Schools etc. Without the Education Sector taking the lead, it isn't gonna be sustainable. Therefore, I would prefer to see WASH in Schools targets as part of Education Sector targets. And because children are part of homes, communities and schools, the WASH Sector and Education Sector should coordinate their efforts AND targets, so indeed improvements at household/ community level and in schools go hand in hand.

Side: No they are not
dietvorst(42) Disputed
1 point

I fully agree that the WASH and the Education Sector must collaborate on defining WASH in Schools indicators. However, moving (all of) the targets to the Education Sector may not be practical. First, the actual provision of water and sanitation services is a responsibility of the service provider, who generally provides these services to domestic, institutional and business customers. Secondly, the human right to water and sanitation also extends to schools. Schools can be made responsible for the plumbing side of things (toilets, washstand installation and maintenance) but water supply and waste removal lie with service providers.

Side: Yes they are