The change in students behavior since the inception of the school health and hygiene club’s under the EU-UNICEF-PNG Government Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) Project has seen positive changes for schools.
One such school is Sipatako Primary School in Panguna, Central Bougainville that has a population of just under 800 students and is a Catholic Mission-run institution established in the 1950s and closed during the Bougainville crisis and later re-opening in 1997.
Sitapatako Primary School Head teacher Mrs. Jacinta James who has been teaching at Sipatako for the last 4 years recollects how things were before the EU-UNICEF WASH project’s intervention.
“Before, our students used to go into the bushes to defecate during the school hours as we did not have any toilets”.
“Each week I would have about 3-5 students come to my office requesting to go home because of stomach upset or diarrhea.”, she said.
She said in 2020 after the school’s new toilets and ablution block was built and the students started using the facilities, there was a decline in numbers of students visiting her office.
In excitement of the newly built ablution block, and the spike in COVID-19 cases being experienced, Mrs. James wants to really bring the WASH message home.
In doing so, the school’s Health Club Teacher Mr. John Avero was encouraged to undertake the mammoth task of creating and leading the ‘School Health and Hygiene Club’.
“Our Health Hygiene Club was created in 2020 but disrupted due to COVID-19, therefore this year our club is going full swing.
“Duties include cleaning of ablution blocks, school beautification, classroom cleanliness student health and hygiene to improve student’s well-being and provide a conducive environment to learn in”, said Mr. Avero.
In support of sentiments shared by Mrs. James, he said that before the construction of the ablution block, students were disposing of their rubbish in the nearby bushes. Our school administration used to have a lot of complaints from the community living around the school about the stench from students openly defecating near their homes and gardens”, said Mr. Avero.