February 25th 2018

Society / Health & Science

UNICEF official says Kitui County leads Kenya in handwashing

“I have been doing this programme in more than 300 primary schools in more than 15 counties of Kenya, but the quality of work here is quite excellent,” the UNICEF official said.

By Boniface Mulubmulu@kenyafreepress.comWednesday, 30 Aug 2017 16:35 EAT

Some of the school children who have participated in the programme.

An estimated 90 per cent of the parents in Kenya have changed their hand-washing habits to adopt the UNICEF-supported Wash Project for local primary schools through their children. This is according to UNICEF Kenya Wash Programme Officer, Agnes Makanyi.

Ms Makanyi said that the UNICEF focuses on the wellbeing of the children in the world, and in its work it collaborates with the national and county governments and other partners. “We as the UNICEF are aware that the water covering in the local (Kenya) schools is 14 per cent, while the children spend most of their time in schools. So there is need for all the country’s education stakeholders to devise ways and means towards sufficient water covering in the country’s schools,” she said. 

Ms Makanyi was speaking during the official launch of the UNICEF-supported Kitui County schools wash facilities held at the Kaveta Primary School in Kitui Central District where the Kitui County Basic Education Assistant Director Emmanuel M. Kalunda was the chief guest. 

Kalunda was representing the County Basic Education, Training and Skills Development Minister Peninna Martha Kilonzi. The County Education Director Susan K. Murerwa was represented by G. Ireri Namu, while the Kenya Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Kitui County Director Juliet Kariuki was represented by Daniel Nzuki Mbuvi from her office.

Makanyi said the UNICEF Wash Project has greatly helped in the environmental conservation in the Kenya’s schools. She highly praised Kitui County schools for being active in the wash matters as compared to the other schools in Kenya. “I have been doing this programme in more than 300 primary schools in more than 15 counties of Kenya, but the quality of work here is quite excellent,” the UNICEF official said.

She commended the local parents, teachers and builders among others for their support to them in managing the programme. “I highly thank Unilever, Kenya’s Education Ministry, our UNICEF office in France and Kitui County government for supporting us in running our programme in Kitui County,” Makanyi said. 

The UNICEF official said that more than 75 per cent of the schools visited in Kenya under the programme had very poor state of sanitation facilities, adding that more than 80 per cent did not have a reliable source of safe drinking water and the few which had it was inadequate. She said that it is only 15 per cent of the target population that had attended one form of training on hygiene promotion. More than 90 per cent did not have washing stations. And 5 per cent had washed hands with water only, the expert added.

Makanyi also said that the improved wash in school will lead to increased enrolment, improved performance, high retention rates, high transition rates, improved hygiene practices, improved self esteem among pupils, reduction of hygiene-related diseases, improved sanitation practices and recognition of children with disabilities.

In her speech, the UNICEF-Kitui County Wash Project Focal Person, Justina Pereira said that they are dealing with a total of 80 primary schools from Kitui Central, Nzambani, Kisasi, Katulani and Matinyani.

She said that 60 of the 80 schools found to require hygiene promotion and 20 require full package-hygiene promotion education, sanitary facilities and water facilities. Pereira, who is an educationist by profession, said that currently the projects are targeting a total of 24,610 children from the 60 schools who are 11,977 girls and 12,633 boys. 

The Kitui County Wash Project is under the County Basic Education, Training and Skills Development Ministry. Pereira said the construction of some decent toilets in schools by the UNICEF is preserving the privacy, especially for the girls. The educationist said that those toilets are constructed with decent doors and some showers and that they are good for girls for changing of their sanitary pads.

“The washing in schools are good projects if we can sustain and manage them. So we need to pull up our socks as far as the wash projects concern our schools,” the UNICEF official said. “I highly thank the Kitui County government for constructing some early childhood development education (ECDE) classrooms in our schools,” she added.

Pereira, said that the hygiene promotion has done a lot of benefits in the Kitui County’s schools. She hailed the Mutendea Primary School in Kitui Central District for topping in the hand washing activities in Kitui County. “The school has bought more buckets for the wash programme and it has increased more hand washing stations as compared to the other schools in the county,” she said.

She also praised other schools in the county among them the Kaveta (Kitui Central District), Maseki (Matinyani District) and Kangweni (Nzambani District) for being active in the hand washing activities.

“That shows that they value the hand washing programme,” the expert said. The UNICEF official said poor hygiene and sanitation practices deny children from accessing the education, increase absenteeism  cases by school children, cause inconsistent retention rates in school, lowers transition from one level to another and inadequate syllabus coverage. “And they also lead to poor performance in examinations, school dropout, spreading of diseases, poverty and misunderstanding among family members,” she added.

Mr Kalunda on his part said that the Kitui County government ranks education the number one in its programme of serving the local people and that the rest including the water, health and roads are the number two in the programme. “Because education is important, all the other programmes that go with education, for example, the health, are also important,” Kalunda said.

He said that they are working with the UNICEF in implementing its WASH project in the county. “The UNICEF has helped us a lot because the facilities that are under the Kitui County Wash Project are very good,” the officer said. He praised the UNICEF for being supportive to them. He added that when donors come to a place they need to be supported by the local communities.

Boniface is a contributing reporter for the Kenya Free Press based in Kitui County

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