From the entrance of a primary school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, you can see trash bins and signs everywhere with short and snappy messages on the value of good sanitation and hygiene practices.
Welcome to one of the most sanitary and hygienic schools in Ethiopia’s capital city, where Plan International’s Student-Led School Sanitation and Hygiene (SLSSH) project has made a huge impact.
Like many schools in Ethiopia, children used to openly defecate on the toilet floor and around the latrines. The school toilets were smelly, full of flies, and did not have proper ventilation. Even in the classrooms, conditions were not particularly sanitary for the 1,700 students and 100 teachers.
In addition to the neglected state of the toilets, the school did not have an appropriate waste collection and disposal system. Knowledge of good sanitation and hygiene practices was limited
“Students were not interested in using the latrines as they were filthy,” said Kassa Yimam, vice director of the school. “They were not used to using rubbish bins despite the availability of a few bins in the school compound. The school community, especially students, were exposed to different disease like flu.”
To address the issue, Plan, in partnership with the Mothers and Children Development Organization (MCMDO), a local non-governmental organization (NGO), launched the SLSSH project in September 2013. The aim of the project is to contribute to the improvement of quality of primary education by creating a child-friendly school environment through the active engagement of students and teachers.
The project started with a five-day training session to five students, a teacher, and the school director from each school targeted by the project. Training activities included creating a sanitation map, calculating the amount of feces produced in the school each day, and producing a waste flow diagram. These activities helped the participants better understand the sanitation situation in their school.
Following the training, all participants returned to their respective schools fully motivated to pass on their knowledge to fellow students and other school communities. They organized one-day awareness raising training sessions with the other students to promote good sanitation and hygiene practices in the school. Using media, plays, and posters, they ensured that every student understood that it was their duty to keep the school, particularly the toilets, clean and tidy.
The students and teachers also established a sanitation and hygiene club and recruited 50 student members. There are at least four student members from each class in the club, and it is the most active club at the school.
The club has coordinated and motivated students to improve and maintain the sanitation and hygiene levels in the school…and their hard work has paid off. All the students have supported the initiative and tried their best to keep the classrooms, latrines, and school compound clean. The school has also received recognition from the local school administration for being the most sanitary and hygienic school in the area.
“We are very satisfied,” said Bethelem, a student at the school. “We are very happy to see our school like this. Earlier on we were expected to coordinate the students, but now every student is ready to actively participate in the sanitation and hygiene initiative. They also take their learning home to pass on to their family and neighbors.”