May 19, 2015 By Alusine Sesay
With support from the National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) and the Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO), Health Network-Sierra Leone, a leading civil society organization with focus on health, corporate governance, security and justice, Saturday, 16 May, engaged authorities from 20 schools in the Western Area Urban and Rural on the need to promote proper hygiene in schools.
The awareness raising event was themed, “Adherence to hygiene practices in school and safety standards freezing to zero Ebola”.
Speaking at the ceremony, Executive Director of Health Network, Robert K. Kargbo, said his organization played a key role in the fight against Ebola as they sensitized residents in five districts, including Bombali, Kambia, Pujehun and Western Urban and Rural.
He said the awareness raising event was as a result of a report on a survey they conducted in various schools, which indicated series of loopholes in the practice of proper hygiene, hence they thought it wise to engage authorities of the affected schools and proffer solutions to the challenges.
He said that during their visit to schools, they discovered that there were inadequate water and sanitation facilities, hence they saw the need to dialogue and map out solutions.
Acting Programme Manager for Schools and Adolescent Programme in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Rugiatu Kanu, recognized the role played by the civil society organization and other partners by way of supporting the ministry in the fight against Ebola.
She said the promotion of hygiene in schools was one of the ministry’s topmost priority areas as good hygiene practice could contribute immensely in preventing not only Ebola but other diseases as well.
She noted that proper hygiene in schools could improve health, boost education and gender equality, adding that the programme was timely and significant as schools were in touch with the larger society.
Madam Kanu commended the organization for such a laudable engagement, noting that proper hygiene would not only help end Ebola but also contribute in preventing the spread of other communicable diseases.
She stressed the importance of hand washing in schools, noting that it would improve the health of pupils.
Project Consultant for SALWACO, Dr. Joe Ben-Davies, said their role was very critical to the initiative of Health Network as good hygiene practices could not be achieved without water, adding that despite numerous challenges they were doing their best to deliver as mandated.
He frowned at the fact that many schools were going without water and sanitation facilities as proper hygiene practices should be the business of all and sundry.
“The issue of water is central to practice proper hygiene and we should not accept a situation where new schools are opened without water and sanitation facilities,” he said. “There are certain schools with toilet facilities that are not in use because they are not kept properly due to the lack of running water.”
He called on teachers present to ensure that proper hygiene was maintained in schools through monitoring, evaluation and communication with stakeholders charged with the responsibility to ensure the provision of water and sanitation facilities.
Dr. Ben-Davies noted that proper hygiene practices were central to schools because pupils can be agent of change.
He said parents should take ownership of hygiene by educating their children.