UKaid changing lives in Zimbabwe through hygiene initiatives

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By Thandiwe Garusa

As one gets closer to the main entrance of Townsend High school in Bulawayo, they are welcomed by an administration block adorned with a mural of kids washing their hands and a cleanliness motivational slogan.

The slogan reads: “It all starts with washing your hands. #CleanHandsCleanFuture!

It is a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) mural done through the Hygiene and Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC) project funded by the people of the United Kingdom (UKaid) and run by government in partnership with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and GOAL Zimbabwe.

Next to the administration block, there is a guidance and counselling hall, colourfully decorated with drawings and writings done by learners and glued to the wall.

This is a room where the school hosts its health sessions. The health club was formed after several training sessions from GOAL Zimbabwe on hygiene and cleanliness to fight Covid-19.

Now, apart from just cleanliness, the program has made unimaginable positive impacts in many schools around the country.

Speaking during a schools’ assessment media tour in Bulawayo Wednesday, Townsend guidance and counselling Head of Department (HoD) Kearabiloe Marumo said for her the WASH program was not just about hygiene but also empowerment.

The schools included Townsend, Montrose, Eveline and Mpopoma.

“The WASH program has allowed us to explore the welfare of learners other than just cleanliness, we no longer only look at hygiene, but we now also look at their wellbeing and safety.

“We consider issues like Gender Based Violence (GBV) that also affect the personality of a child.

“WASH program brought a platform for us to discuss and address issues like bullying, thieving, violence etc.

“WASH also made it possible for us to explore other avenues like starting a nutrition garden, we are already supplying hostels and in the coming few days we will be feeding the less privileged,” Marumo said.

WASH facilities help keep children healthy

WASH infrastructure has been critical  in keeping children healthy, creating a comfortable and positive learning environment, and keeping them in school.

Under the HBCC program, 74 schools in Bulawayo and Harare schools got hygiene kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) such as multiple hand washing stations, soap, water tanks, masks, sanitisers, buckets and gloves.

Schools also got Information Education Communication  (IEC) materials such as t-shirts and posters with key messages on WASH.

The primary and secondary education ministry communications director who was also part of the schools tour said:

“The programme is useful to our learners, the girl child mainly, in the sense that it gives them confidence to attend schools where the learning environment is clean and safe.”

Sanitation trainings promote best practices

Nomathemba Takabinga, guidance and counselling HoD at Eveline girls’ high school, just a few kilometres from Townsend described how the HBCC project turned into something more than just wellness.

Eveline High, a girls’ school in Bulawayo has established a 24/7 “72-hour service room”, regarded as a safe space for learners where they openly discuss issues affecting them including sanitation.

“GOAL Zimbabwe gave us a training that covered everything about cleanliness and students’ health and encouraged us to start health clubs and as a result we also established our “72- hour Service Room” which is a safe place for learners.

“It is open 24/7 and learners come here to discuss issues affecting them with confidence knowing they are safe.

“Whatever we teach them here, they go and teach others in the community, and we feel that we have been empowered as teachers,” she said.

Mpopoma High School headmaster Christopher Dube also expressed gratitude to the sponsors saying the WASH program will make learning easy and improve the schools pass rate.

“A healthy body is a healthy mind, if the mind is healthy then it is easy to teach those learners. GOAL Zimbabwe has done us proud.

“Now there is a big difference, we did not even have a single piece of soap at our school but now our learners are able to clean their hands. They surely become healthier and operate better in the classroom,” Dube said.

She also said that it is now difficult for learners to litter around or write on walls as the environment is clean.

Clean, well-lit, well – ventilated bathrooms with running water improve students’ academic lives
Henrietta Mbuyisa (14) is one of the young learners from Montrose Girls High who recently joined the health club, and she knows the difference a good and clean bathroom makes in learning.

She described how the bathrooms used to be when the school still had water challenges.

“The hygiene campaigns have helped us a lot in changing our school and the community we live in. Before the HBCC program our toilets used to be catastrophic.

“The walls were written all over and all messed up but now they got repainted, running water all the time because of the JoJo tank we got from GOAL, even when you spoil yourself you can go to the bathroom, take a shower, wash your uniform in a well-lit and well-ventilated bathroom and go back to class,” she said.

All the learners expressed gratitude to the sponsors of WASH and encouraged them to keep doing the good work.