This article has been published in Enabling Education 14
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Title: Children's Voices: WASH and the learning process in Ethiopia
Author: Tesfu, M
Publisher: EENET
Date: 2010

Children’s voices: WASH and the learning process in Ethiopia

‘WASH and Children’ is the name of a research project being undertaken by Water Aid Ethiopia. It explores the impact that a lack of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions can have on the lives of children (infants, students and non-enrolled schoolaged children). The research mainly focuses on areas that have no WASH facilities. However, Water Aid project intervention areas are also being researched as a control sample, with gender and accessibility issues being the key focus.

Outcomes from this research will be used to inform Water Aid’s future programmes and approaches. The research is not yet complete, but we wanted to share with you some of the perspectives of the children who have been involved in the research.

From a school with no WASH facilities
“One of the biggest problems we face at the school is lack of water and toilets. We don’t have a water tap at school. We usually carry 5-10 litres of water everyday from home. Some of us live very far from the school and the surroundings are hilly too. That makes carrying water from home very tiring. The water we bring to school is used for drinking, to water the plants and to clean the classrooms. Each student is responsible for at least one newly planted tree.

During break time, I hurry home to drink water and return to school. I got this scar on my chin from falling hard while running back to school. When I can’t go home, I get thirsty and my attention drifts away from the classroom and I think about how I can get water to drink. My throat and my lips get dry, and swallowing and concentration becomes really hard. Whatever the case, bringing water to the school for the trees is a must. If we fail to do so, we will be punished.”

Latrines are also not available at the school: “Because of this, most students defecate around the school and make the place very disgusting. It makes us sick. It is not easy for us girls to defecate outside in the presence of boys. It’s embarrassing and we don’t feel safe. For me, when I can’t defecate on time I feel very uncomfortable and my stomach makes noises.”

“The situation at home is hard too. I have to collect water from the river. To avoid the very long queue I need to get there at midnight. …Since I’m up so late, I feel very tired and can’t pay attention in class. The round trip takes about an hour and I carry 20 litres of water. As a result I feel strong pain in my back and hip. Sometimes I hardly feel my bones in the hip area. When I collect water in the sun I feel dizzy and weak”. (Kelalit G/ezgi, 9 years old, Grade 2)

From a school with WASH facilities
“Our school now has a water tap and a latrine. We can get water whenever we want and use the toilet during break time. Now we don’t bother about carrying water all the way from home for drinking and for the trees. We don’t feel thirsty. We also don’t defecate outside and aren’t scared of boys teasing us. Now what we can think of is about our education. The break time that we used to waste in search of water is now used for playing. We also don’t come to class late and get punished by the school security guard. In general, the availability of the water tap and latrine makes our stay at school better and allows us to study instead of worrying about water and where to go to the toilet.” (Tekle Berhe, 15 years old, Grade 5).

The report will shortly be available in the documents section of the website for WaterAid in Ethiopia:

Contact: Mahider Tesfu, Senior Equity and Inclusion Officer and Manyahlshal Ayele, Learning and Communications Co-ordinator

WaterAid in Ethiopia
PO Box 4812
Addis Ababa
Email: and