“Healthy Water, Healthy Habits, Healthy People” curriculum—developed in part through consultations with Ugandan teachers as part of a USAID-funded effort to improve WASH education in Africa—to improve health and facilitate learning.Donations from parishioners at a Texas church and students from a school in California helped train 30 Ugandan educators to teach their students about water, sanitation and hygiene. Held in early May in the Rubirizi District in Western Uganda, the two-day workshop used Project WET’s award-winning
Students for Safe Water, a group founded by California high school student Carter Jimenez Jenkins, and Carter’s fellow students at St. John's Episcopal School raised $600 through student donations during chapel, a philanthro-party donation from a generous St. John’s student and funds collected from the school recycling program. Their donation was combined with funds from parishioners at Clear Lake Presbyterian Church in Houston, who bought “shares” in the project for a total of $260.
The combined total from the student and church groups was enough to support a workshop facilitated by National Coordinator of Project WET Uganda Teddy Tindamanyire, experienced Project WET educator Aggrey Oluka and Chairman of the Water Committee of Rubirizi District Charles Tusiime. The district education officer for 15 schools in Bunyaruguru County selected the 30 primary teachers who attended the training. The goals for the workshop were:
- To refresh teachers’ skills in using the WASH materials.
- To share ideas, skills and knowledge on how to best teach pupils to use simple practices like hand washing to prevent and control water- and sanitation-related diseases.
- To identify any challenges that may hinder effective teaching and discuss possible remedies to the challenges.
- To help teachers come up with action plans for individual schools to will guide them toward positive behavior change in pupils and communities.
The facilitators used a combination of methods in the workshop but most employed practical approaches to involve the participants, since the trainees will be expected to do the same when they return to their pupils. The training emphasized that the activities are suitable for any classroom environment because they deliver the information quickly and in an engaging way that sticks in pupils’ minds.
For their part, the teachers showed fantastic energy, wholeheartedly participating in each activity and demonstrating their eagerness to learn more. They also shared knowledge and skills with each other based on what they have been doing in their schools around the WASH topic. Going forward, follow-up contact with these teachers will help determine whether positive behavior change has been effected among students and other teachers.
In addition to the hands-on training, various technical topics were also presented, including the percentage of water on Earth, hand washing for health, disease transmission, healthy habits and finding and maintaining safe water sources. Participants had a chance to discuss challenges to their work, including:
- Water shortages in schools, especially in those near the lakes around Bunyaruguru area.
- Lack of rain water harvesting materials (the organizers later learned that the government is working to help schools by providing water tanks and gutters).
- The attitude of parents toward school activities and learning in general.
- Concerns from school administrators who fear that teaching WASH topics could impede instruction in the subjects tested by end-of-year exams.
- High poverty levels that mean many families can’t afford soap for hygiene practices.
- Mistaken beliefs that drinking boiled water can lead to colds and flu.
- Teachers who worry that new work is only a burden, since there is no extra salary available to compensate them for their time.
During the workshop and the accompanying discussions, participants made a number of recommendations for positive action that can increase the chance of positive behavior change. Some of these include:
- Frequent visits to trainee schools to check in with educators about their successes and challenges.
- Asking head teachers and parents to attend some workshops so that the teachers can have better support.
- Coordinate the WASH materials with other, existing curricula.
The trainees were then grouped by school so that they could work on appropriate local action plans to help them executing their duties at school. In the end, participants returned to their schools with hands-on skills and knowledge that will help their pupils employ “healthy habits” with “healthy water” to become and stay “healthy people.”