Speaker: Blessy Merlin Oviya
Children are key agents in behavioural change in the water, sanitation and hygiene(WASH)
sector. This poster presents the programme aimed introducing concepts of Fecal
Sludge Management(FSM) through WASH programs in schools in two Town Panchayats in
the Coimbatore District of Tamil Nadu. Several children who participated in the programme
reside in near by slum communities, and the aim was to help children take up initiatives in
their own communities for activities like waste segregation, composting, and helping in
reduction of open defecation. The approach was to use cultural insights along with
environmental and social realities of the region.
The School WASH programme aimed at promoting hygiene, increasing access to quality
education, and supporting sustainable access to WASH facilities and physical infrastructure
by looking at children as agents of change. Conducted in two Town Panchayats,
Periyanaicken Palayam(PNP) and Narasimhanaicken Palayam(NNP), located in Coimbatore
district, Tamil Nadu, the programme covered five schools, where around 100 students from
nearby slum communities are students. The approach used cultural insights with
environmental and social realities of the region, to encourage children to take up initiatives
and spread awareness in their communities.
Methods and programme overview
Five out of 17 schools in PNP and NNP were selected to ensure a larger group from nearby
slum communities and have maximum participation of both boys and girls.
Two approaches were used- i) a hardware approach, aimed at ensuring safe and
sustainable sanitation facilities in schools by strengthening existing infrastructure like toilets,
wash basins and drinking water facilities; ii) software approach, using interactive classroom
and outdoor sessions to help students learn about WASH and FSM using games.
A total of 661 students from Class 6, 7 and 9 participated in the software programme, and all
2389 students from the schools benefitted from the hardware programme.
This programme began with repair work on a sanitary napkin incinerator in one school,
followed with fixing toilet seats, doors, and reparing breakage in containments. The school
was also provided with sunshades over handwashing stations and toilets. Some of these
were done with Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) collaborations, and the intervention
will be continued in other schools once they reopen after the Covid-19 lockdown.
This programme aimed at engaging children with integrated life skills education, focusing on
key messages about proper hygiene and sanitation facilities. Activities were held in three
sessions: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.
All sessions were conducted over three days each, using interactive methods like picture
cards, interactive quizzes, infographics, and sound games.
This programme introduced children to the significance and sources of water, and explained
the concepts of water pollution and waste water. It concluded with interactive experiments
where children explored water chemistry to understand concepts like salinity and pH level.
The children were given a compact water testing kit and demonstrations on DIY purification
techniques (like boiling, solar disinfection, adding chlorine drops) that can be used at homes
for fetching or drinking water.
This programme introduced children to ‘poop science’ and ‘poop calculation’, to help
understand the quantity of germs and parasites in even a small quantity of human feces.
This was done to reiterate how open defecation could lead to disease spreading.
Physical infrastructure of toilets and containments was also demonstrated, to understand the
engineering behind their functioning and what happens after flushing, including decanting,
treatment and reuse.
Children were introduced to testing samples of handwashed water to help visibly understand
the consequences of not washing hands. The handwashing steps were elaborated using a
song, and children were introduced to toilet maintenance and etiquette.
Wider implications and discussion
● This initiative made WASH part of their academic learning, while also brought about
collaborations and network building with the education department and Government
● These messages can be made an integral part of the existing education system.
● Customised WASH and FSM material was disseminated for wider reach.
● Existing sanitation infrastructure was improved with refurbishment and repair of
toilets, incinerators and handwash facilities.
● Community interaction and rapport was also built between different slum
communities whose children participated and are engaged in slum interventions.
● Children were able to understand the significance of toilets and personal hygiene,
which is important if the predominant problem of open defecation is to be reduced.