Alamgir Chowdhury

Alamgir Chowdhury is Coordinator of Training for the Energy & Urban Services Programme of Practical Action Bangladesh

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Posts by Alamgir

  • Thousands of students improve hygiene practices in Bangladesh

    August 25th, 2016

    Alamgir Chowdhury, Coordinator-Training, Energy & Urban Services Programme, Practical Action Bangladesh

    Nearly 70,000 students (Girls: 38,593 and Boys: 31,167)  in 6 sub-districts of Dhaka and Sylhet are enjoying good health and regularly attending classes.  The CATS (Community Approaches to Total Sanitation) project of UNICEF and Practical Action has helped to establish improved hygiene practices in those areas. Teachers and students are working together to bring changes to peoples’ ways of thinking.  People are now enjoying an open defecation free life leading to a healthier living environment and better public health.

    handwashing CAT projectUNICEF and Practical Action, Bangladesh have been working on the jointly designed CATS project since October 2014 in 500 communities and 200 schools in 34 unions of 6 sub districts of Dhaka and Sylhet. The aim of the project is to sustainably improve sanitation and promote hygiene behaviour change in these communities.

    Though most schools in those areas have access to water and sanitation facilities, over half these water sources were not working and many of the latrines were in poor sanitary condition and unusable. The project has rehabilitated or installed general hand washing facilities in the schools. It also rehabilitated or reconstructed existing sanitation, toilet and water facilities in the schools.

    In total the project established

    • 100 sanitation/toilet facilities
    • 200 hand washing corners
    • 70 menstrual hygiene corners

    Teachers and students have been involved in different learning programmes, workshops, and idea exchanges. This participatory approach led to the School Led Total Sanitation approach, which has increased demand for appropriate and well maintained, sustainable facilities and the scaling-up of the mass hand washing activities among the users.

    raising awareness This also incorporated another approach, Fit for School, which focuses on sanitation facilities according to the individual needs of each school.  Key messages of good practice have been spread through School Brigades and Councils, which are very effective in promoting school level sanitation programmes. School brigades are responsible for hygiene monitoring in schools and also participate in district and national level sanitation and hygiene competitions in the form of debates, drawings, poems and songs.

    Teachers have facilitated one hygiene session each week for students along with their regular curriculum. Students have also participated in a popular hygiene role-play called Robi-Rani. Teachers also encourage students to participate and observe Sanitation Month, World Water Day, World Environment Day and Menstrual Day which focus on the importance of improved hygiene practice.

    These initiatives have improved hand washing and toilet use practice among students. Other personal hygiene practices like nail cutting, hair combing, and tooth brushing and menstrual hygiene management for adolescent girls have been developed among the students. The school management committee members and teachers have developed a mechanism with student’s brigades for the operation and maintenance of wash facilities for proper monitoring and sustainability. The result is remarkable. Student absence rates have dropped significantly as students rarely suffer from water borne diseases like, dysentery, diarrhoea, cholera and various skin infections.  Regular attendance has improved students overall performance.

    The project has initiated different types of training sessions and events for school awareness. Examples include training of trainers on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practice and the operation and maintenance of sanitation facilities for teachers, students and school council members. The project team have also organised student council meetings and facilitated an action plan on WASH with students, and assisted the schools with relevant materials.

    The student council use a weekly assembly to increase knowledge and practice of hand washing before and after meals, monitoring the progress of using latrine hygienically and hand washing after toilet use. The student brigades now regularly monitor hand washing practice in schools, look after the hygiene  of the toilets.  The student brigades, teachers and SMC members have also facilitated hand washing activities in the schools on different occasions for sustaining hand washing practice among the students.

    There have been several programmes on “the effect of ODF and Hand Washing”. Six debate competitions were organised and several art competitions to inspire the students on the long-term effects of total school led sanitation. Representatives from district administration, the primary education department and the school authorities attended these programmes to encourage students. These activities have encouraged other schools in the adjacent areas to improve sanitation and hygiene practices among the school students and communities.

    The CATS project has changed the lives of thousands of students of these two hundred schools in Bangladesh. The project has proved that improved hygiene practice is directly related to increased school attendance and better performance by the students. Although most of the students of these schools belong to poorer families in the communities, the school led total sanitation approach has not only changed the students’ hygiene behaviour but is also reflected in the overall improved hygiene practices of these communities.

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