With the introduction of free primary schooling in Tanzania in 2015, the infrastructure in schools has had to play catch up with the surge in the number of students. Raleigh Tanzania’s and JOA funded School Water Sanitation and Hygiene (SWASH) projects, such as the one being delivered with the community in Mkamba village, are essential to encouraging the growth of school attendance in rural Tanzania and to ensuring young people can be healthy and focused during their education.
The teachers of the primary school in Mkamba have made a conscious effort to actively participate in the SWASH lessons being delivered by Raleigh Tanzania and JOA volunteers. The hard-working teachers joined in with the games and sang along to the catchy hygiene related songs which are now heard throughout the village. Bryn, one of the current Expedition volunteer managers, relayed that one teacher Redempta Masheyo, a teacher in Juhudi Primary School, committed to join in the SWASH teaching so that she would learn all the skills to pass on to her future classes.
Bryn also noticed how the children were engaging in peer to peer knowledge exchange. She would often hear children in the community who had not been part of the SWASH classes – because they were not yet old enough to attend primary school – singing the words: ‘Bye bye cholera, typhoid is my enemy. No more dysentery, wash my hands and I’ll be free’.
As a JOA volunteer manager Bryn also gave her impressions of the project so far: “The first thing you notice about Mkamba Village is the lack of basic infrastructure for water and sanitation. Water is not guaranteed for most households. Our homestay, for example, has no guarantee that when they turn on their taps, safe water will come out. So they have to have a number of jerry cans full of water for back up. This water is not drinkable – it’s only for washing. Any water required for drinking has to be chlorinated or boiled to make it safe to drink – that needs thought and preparation on top of all the other activities of daily life – something most people in the global North perhaps take for granted.”
She continued: “As with all Raleigh Tanzania SWASH project, we took in two approaches: 1) the construction of a new toilet block for the teachers; and, 2) teaching classes to the school children re-enforcing the importance of regular hand washing together with safer food hygiene.”
Volunteers drafted and approved the hygiene lesson timetable with the headteacher and developed lesson plans. The JOA and Tanzanian volunteers taught the entire school in 15 lessons; twice to S1 to S7 aged 6 through-12 and once to the kindergardners. The seven classes ranged in size from approximately 60 to around 140.
The JOA volunteers learned very quickly to become more creative with their lesson plans as it was clear from the outset that the children of Mkamba knew the basics of hand washing very well! The problem was a lack of reinforcement around good hygiene behaviours and inadequate infrastructure – two things the Raleigh Tanzania SWASH project was there to address.
Volunteer manager Bryn describes the approach taken by the volunteers: “The ‘Hand washing Song’ rang out across the school grounds from assembly in the morning and continued sporadically throughout the day from various classrooms or during playtime. Hand washing was clearly ‘old hat’ to them and we knew we needed to keep their attention in the classroom so the lessons had to be very much interactive.”
The awareness raising lesson also focused on safer food hygiene and how easy it was to both encourage and transmit the germs that make us sick. To do this effectively, the volunteers used several resources:
- The Tanzanian National ‘Handbook for Teachers’ – which gave us some initial guidance on lesson planning
- World Health Organisation’s ‘5 Keys to Safer Food Manual’ – here we drew the 5 keys and translated them to Swahili. These were then used as prompts for high-level questioning and guidance in class. The five keys represented the following subjects:
- Keep Clean
- Separate Raw and Cooked Food
- Cook Thoroughly
- Keep Food at Safe Temperatures
- Use Safe Water and Raw Materials
- Paper – we crumpled up bits of paper – some had red danger crosses on them – and asked the children to pick one and open it. Those with the red danger cross were the ‘germs’ and they had to teach JOA their Handwashing Song in order to become clean.
- Football and balloons – throwing and catching the football and balloons showing how germs can be spread through play
The team reflected that it was totally refreshing to see the enthusiasm the children had to their presence in their classrooms. They were fully engaged and so everyone enjoyed the experience and learnt lots along the way.
Written by Heather Hutton, JOA volunteer