Thursday, 11 August, 2022

Improve school hygiene facilities

We were appalled by what we saw at a five-column report published on the Metro Page of this newspaper yesterday. The report, quoting the UN agencies, stated that one in five schools in our country lacks safe drinking water, impacting 8.5m schoolchildren. It is deeply shocking! Lack of safe water can cause children's dehydration and illness putting them at risk of diseases while pursuing studies. Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in schools are important for child health, development, and educational performance. But, regrettably, their coverage remains low in our schools. As to why, these children have to contend with a lack of basic hygiene facilities. And, a good number of them have to miss school as they lack a quality learning environment without these basics.

Typical situation prevails in Bangladesh schools during normal period. Presently, the country is now reeling from a devastating flooding. At least 16 districts have been flooded wrecking havoc in vast areas. Floods have taken a heavy toll on schools. Many school tube-wells and latrines have either been damaged or totally destroyed. Schoolchildren have to bear a disproportionate brunt of the ill-effects of flood. At this period, scarcity of safe water becomes very acute. When floodwaters start receding then waterborne diseases break out in the affected areas, sometimes in an epidemic form. Because of damaged toilets and sanitation facilities, children may not come to school at all. Ultimately, a good number of school students, especially adolescent girls, might have to discontinue studies, at least for a while.

Presently, corona cases are on the rise. Proper hand washing facilities are essential for preventing the spread of corona infection. Floods have damaged many of these facilities. So, school children will risk their health if they take part in classes after improvement of ongoing flood situation. Safe water and hygiene facilities are a must for children's comprehensive education and a quality learning environment.  The situation can be quickly improved if the policymakers treat water, sanitation and hygiene as a priority. With political will, it really is possible to deliver good quality services to school kids.