Why WASH in Schools?
Lack of access to adequate water supply, insufficient toilet and proper handwashing facilities, and non-practice of hygiene behavior remain key contributors to hygiene and sanitation challenges. This situation also leads to anemia, stunted growth, and higher incidence of absenteeism which consequently impede a child’s learning and ability to stay in school. UNICEF correctly notes that poverty is linked directly to poor sanitation and hygiene, and has emphasized the vital role of government in breaking the cycle of poverty and ensuring access to improved drinking water and sanitation. On the other hand, it has been estimated that about 43.7 percent and 44.7 percent of pre-school age and school-age children, respectively, in the country have soil-transmitted helminth infections, which are also associated with poverty, lack of access to safe and clean water, and poor sanitation and hygiene. The situation is compounded by other factors, including shortage of funds for: (a) the installation of toilet and handwashing facilities, (b) the provision of adequate water supply, and hygiene items for schools, and (c) the implementation of school-based solid waste management. Other compounding factors include the lack of mechanisms for operation and maintenance to ensure facilities’ cleanliness and suitability for continued use, and the scarce funding for the security and safekeeping of school property, which is especially urgent in the most highly congested schools in the country.
Best practices around the world show that improving access to and use of water and sanitation facilities within schools and enhancing hygiene and sanitation practices can effectively halt water and sanitation-related diseases. To address this challenge, the Department of Education (DepEd) had been conducting semi-annual deworming of kindergarten and elementary school children in all public schools nationwide under its Integrated Helminth Control Program (IHCP). In the last six years, it had combined deworming with daily toothbrushing and proper handwashing under one program. The Department Order (D.O.) No. 56, s. 2009 titled “Immediate Construction of Water and Hand Washing Facilities in All Schools for the Prevention of Influenza A (H1NI)” and D.O. No. 65, s. 2009 titled “Implementation of the Essential Health Care Program (EHCP) for the School Children” were issued in an effort to institutionalize good health and hygiene practices among students.
These programs propelled the efforts of the the country closer achieving the 2015 MDG goal on the reduction of infectious diseases and improving sanitation coverage. Even with the significant gains of DepEd’s on Deworming Program, H1NI; and EHCP – the Department recognized the merit of having a comprehensive approach to the promotion of hygiene and sanitation practices among school children and a clean environment in and arouind schools to heep learners safe and healthy.
Hence, the DepEd crafted the Wash in Schools Policy (DepEd Order No. 10 s. 2016), as a holistic program for personal health care and environmental sanitation through a set of standards for proper and correct health practices in schools. It goes beyond handwashing, toothbrushing, and deworming – which are the key programs of the EHCP – to cover water, sanitation including food handling and preparation, hygiene including Menstrual Hygiene Management, deworming, health education, and capacity building. In crafting this set of guidelines, thus, the Department, in partnership with agencies and stakeholders, hopes to address the gaps in the areas of hygiene and sanitation and keep more children healthy and in school.
The DepEd WASH in Schools (WinS) Policy
The WinS Policy or DepEd Order No. 10, s. 2016 titled Policy and Guidelines for the Comprehensive Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools (WinS) Program was issued 19 February, 2016. It was presented by Secretary Armin Luistro at the 2016 Presidential Conference of WASH in Schools in Pasay City on the 18th of March 2016.
The Wash in Schools policy puts all of the above programs, which have been undertaken separately for years, under one roof. Along with these, D.O. No. 10 also introduces Menstrual Hygiene Management(MHM) – a new component of the Wash in Schools hygiene program. MHM promotes the right of girl children to safe and dignified management of menstruation using hygienic materials, aided by clean and adequate water supply, with safe and private spaces for personal hygiene concerns and sanitary pad disposal. MHM seeks to raise public awareness and provide correct information as well as empower girl-schoolchildren in managing their menstruation, which is an essential part of reproductive health. MHM, together with the installation of separate toilets for boys and girls, ultimately seeks to raise awareness of and promote gender equality among schoolchildren.
Key Components of WASH in Schools
The DepED WASH in Schools Program has eight (8) components, namely:
- Oral hygiene and proper handwashing;
- Provision of safe and adequate water supply;
- Provision of toilet, handwashing, and drainage facilities;
- Environmental sanitation (including the elimination of breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus) and solid waste management;
- Food sanitation;
- Menstrual Hygiene Management;
- Deworming; and
- Hygiene and sanitation education
Implementation Scheme: The Three Star Approach
Following an international concept of encouraging incremental improvements towards national standards, the DepEd set in place a mechanism for programming, monitoring progress, ensuring quality, and recognizing exemplary performance. This integrated mechanism is called the DepEd’s Three Star Approach.
The components of the DepEd’s Three Star Approach (TSA) are:
- Operational Standards. The cornerstone of the TSA is a set of rubrics that articulates the incremental steps towards national standards and achieving the objectives of WinS.
- Monitoring and Evaluation System. This describes the processes involved in school’s self analysis as basis for planning to address gaps and / or continuous improvement. The data being collected in the WinS TSA – Monitoring complements the Department’s Basic Education Information System (BEIS).
- Recognition mechanism. This aspect of the TSA ensures that schools are motivated to move towards national standards. The TSA gives premium to the effort of the school community to improve and the results of these efforts.