Including disabled children in improved school sanitation, Bangladesh
The lack of accessible water and sanitation facilities is a key reason why many disabled children do not attend school. In this article, Naimal describes a large-scale project – funded by UKAid through the UK Department for International Development – which helps to provide schools with adapted latrines and washing facilities.
The SHEWA-B (Sanitation, Hygiene, Education and Water Supply in Bangladesh) project is a joint UNICEF and Bangladesh government initiative. Overall, the project targets about 20 million people and aims to change hygiene behaviours and improve access to safe water and sanitation. One of its initiatives is to provide support, through local partner NGOs, to disabled children so they can safely access water and sanitation facilities at school and in the community. The project does this through a range of activities.
All primary school teachers in a project area attend a two-day, rights-based and gender-sensitive training session. They learn how to implement the water, sanitation and hygiene promotion activities in their schools, and how to assess the school’s WASH situation and available resources. They critically review their own situation and learn how to prepare a School Level Implementation Plan.
Teachers are trained to form Student Brigades (groups of students who want to take action on WASH issues) and mobilise them to carry out awareness activities in the community.
The training is always school-based, so that teachers can see the theory in relation to their own situation and trainers can use examples from the school. The training is participatory, using group work, plenary discussions, brainstorming and demonstrations of hygiene lessons.
While the official training module does not cover disability, in practice training is provided to ensure that latrines are as disability-friendly as possible. Records are kept of children who have various disabilities by each primary school. The School Management Committee (SMC) and local masons also receive training on latrine design, construction and quality monitoring.
Assessing children’s support needs
The NGOs responsible for each sub-district assess the specific support required by children. This is done with the community using Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) processes. The community makes a social map of their village showing tube-wells and
latrines, and demographic information, such as where disabled people live in the village, their age and disability. Community members then make a Community Action Plan and the SMC makes the School Level Plan.
The SMC decides on site selection and the types of latrines/facilities to build, following a design guide. They apply to the Water and Sanitation Committee for support, and hire a local mason to do the work.
So far 46 physically impaired school children have benefitted from the project’s changes to school latrines and water facilities.
Eight-year-old Nayan used to watch other children walking to school every day, not knowing if he would ever be able to join them. He comes from a poor family in Shalbahan village and could not walk for the first six years of his life because he was born with a clubfoot. He can now walk, but it is painful and he is also unable to use a squat toilet.
Nayan began attending school in early 2010, but every time he needed to use the toilet he had to make the painful walk home. The school reported Nayan’s enrolment to the SHEWA-B project, which arranged for a specially designed latrine to be installed. The latrine has support bars, and a low basin – fitted with an electric motor for a constant water supply – so he can wash his hands and face. The school has committed to maintaining this equipment from its own funds.
Naimal Haq is a consultant in the Communication Section of UNICEF Bangladesh.
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Adapted from an article first published in UNICEF’s Bangladesh Newsletter.