In August 2015, Tai Ping Primary School in Badong County, Hubei Province served as the locale for World Toilet Organization (WTO) and Wuhan University’s Wei Ai Er Sheng (WAES) Public Welfare Organisation’s first weeklong hygiene promotion program, before the installation the school’s toilets starts in the first quarter of 2016.
With the ultimate goal of inspiring lasting, positive behavioural change in the target communities, WTO’s Rainbow Toilet Program in China champions a two-pronged approach towards improving sanitation standards – the construction and provision of hygienic toilets (hardware) is complemented by hygiene awareness programmes (software) for users, in order to maximise the multitude of benefits involved in such sanitation interventions.
Interspersed with games, Math and English classes, a total of 26 hours worth of hygiene-related classes were delivered to 84 enthusiastic Tai Ping Primary School students over the week – some students trekked up to four hours with their parents in the largely mountainous areas to attend these classes. Hosted by the student facilitators from WAES, this specially tailored hygiene promotion classes sought to promote habits like the proper use of toilets; hand washing with soap; impart knowledge regarding personal grooming, oral hygiene and food-related hygiene; as well as conduct outdoor classes to familiarize the students with hygiene in their home environments. Since the class is meant for young students, it is important that lessons are conducted in a fun and interactive manner to capture their attention.
Based on initial site visits, we noticed that these students were unaccustomed to washing their hands before meals or after relieving themselves (the old toilets had no hand washing facilities), so it was crucial to inculcate good hand-washing habits incorporating the use of soap. The facilitators were quick to teach a ‘Hand-washing Song’ and have the Tai Ping Primary students practice the different steps to reinforce the lessons. The students were very receptive and eager to learn.
Most importantly, since the school would be transitioning from a dry-based toilet system to a wet-based flush toilet system, it is essential to educate the students on some basic ‘Dos and Don’ts’ when utilizing this new technology, and the various components of a flush toilet.
Students can often act as change makers and influence their families and friends – as such, teaching them and reinforcing the importance of good hygiene habits is the first step to reaching out to the community at large. This means that we are interested in creating a memorable time for the students – to remind them of all the lessons and fun they experienced during the hygiene promotion week, so that they themselves become inspired to become hygiene ambassadors within their community. With that in mind, the WAES facilitators organised various bonding activities and dance performances to round up the week’s worth of activities.
Students performing to mark the finale of the program
When the time came for the facilitators and students to say goodbye, there was not a dry eye in the room. The students were also all given a complimentary sanitation pack as a souvenir – comprising of a towel, a toothbrush, a cup, some body soap and shampoo. Despite the relatively short duration of the program, there is little doubt that the week would be especially unforgettable and important for the students in the months and years to come.
Both students and facilitators tear up at the end of class
Based on the feedback and experience with this pilot class, the WTO will work with WAES to further improve the curriculum for the students from the other beneficiary schools in the Rainbow Toilet Program. To ensure that the program flourishes, we are assisting all beneficiary schools of the Rainbow Toilet Program in the formation of their own ‘Rainbow Club’ – consisting of student hygiene ambassadors and teachers, who are responsible for organising hygiene and sanitation-related events in the school. They would also be trained for proper use and maintenance that ensure the longevity and sustainability of the new sanitation facilities.