7th June 2018 by Ben Greeves
In the third blog of her series, Kate Flanagan discusses, in her own words, the volunteers’ responsibility to educate the children of Msunjilile, Tanzania in water, sanitation and hygiene.
We were inspired by the dedication of the Raleigh volunteers to engage the younger generation in water, sanitation and hygiene issues, which in turn will hopefully encourage widespread behavioural change. We hope this blog inspires you too.
If you have any comments on these blogs, please contact us. We would love to hear your thoughts.
Every weekday at 7am Amber, Nuru and I left our homestay for the day. We would walk out of the courtyard and onto one of the main village roads, joining the swathes of children who were on their way to school. The abundance of white, blue and green uniforms stood out against the orange dust of the road. That is what each morning looked like for us.
As we walked through the village in the direction of the school, children would often follow us most of the way, up the wide road lined with old Baobab trees. A lot of them, especially the younger ones, did not wear shoes and many carried their studying books in plastic bags. A lot of the student population in rural Tanzania walk miles to get to their school – a place where class size can reach 120 children, where they sit on wooden desks in front of blackboards and where corporal punishment is legal. Despite such teaching environments, the value placed upon education is much the same as anywhere in the world. The teachers are passionate and the children love to learn.
A vital part of our responsibility as volunteers was to teach water, sanitation and hygiene lessons to the children of Msunjilile Primary School. Such education, starting with the youngest and most enthusiastic generation of learners, is fundamental to ensure long-term behavioural change. Throughout our Raleigh curriculum we were fortunate to have the dedicated support and partnership of the teachers and headmistress of the school, without which we would not have garnered the same success.
Our lessons covered topics including handwashing, the importance of soap, teeth brushing, personal hygiene, water purification and water safety, waterborne diseases such as Cholera, food contamination and prevention, foodborne diseases and menstrual hygiene management. We designed lesson experiences that differed from the regular school curriculum with activities, quizzes, songs and resources, such as glitter, to make the information we taught as memorable as possible. Each lesson was delivered by one Tanzanian volunteer and one UK volunteer, who planned and taught the lessons together (lessons were mostly delivered in Swahili, the first language of Tanzania, with some English teaching translated).
Alongside the timetabled lessons our volunteers met with a very important group of students each week – the school water, sanitation and hygiene (SWASH) club. Such clubs are initiated at schools by Raleigh International to encourage broader engagement with water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) issues through fun and games. Children of the Msunjilile SWASH club also taught lessons on relevant topics to other students, a display of child-to-child learning which proves so effective in instilling values and ideas. Each young member of this extra-curricular club became an enthusiastic ambassador for WASH amongst their fellow students and wider community. The SWASH club, led by the school Health and Nutrition teacher, continues to meet even since our departure.
Children are the future. Our education hopefully inspired a young generation to engage with WASH issues and encourage widespread behavioural change. New knowledge will empower them as they become agents of change who, with their boundless optimism and energy, have the potential to encourage and enforce improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene within their community for many years to come.
One of the classrooms at Msunjilile Primary School. The windows are made of wire mesh and each wooden desk can sit up to four children. While only half of the classroom is visible in this photograph, each has the capacity for anywhere between 70 and 120 students.
Kate Flanagan – 2018