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Hafizur Rahman of Tarash sub-district of Sirajgonj says that his son taught him the importance of washing hands with soaps after using the washroom.
“My son got a sticker and asked me to buy a soap, toothbrush and toothpaste for him or he wouldn’t go to school. I had to spend Tk 100 for this, but later it seemed like a worthwhile expense,” Rahman said.
Many other parents like Rahman were taught an important lesson on hygiene from their children, who acted as child agents to bring a change in the hygiene practice of their family and locality.
Children are able to bring about a change in the sanitation practice of their community through their involvement in the Student Brigade programme initiated in Classes three to five of each primary school in 19 districts under SHEWA-B project implemented by Department of Public Health with the support of UNICEF..
Through practical knowledge of cleanliness, children are taught about the importance of hygiene and encouraged to disseminate this knowledge amongst their friends, family members and locality.
Children are responsible for cleaning their schools, classrooms, school toilets, tube well platforms and ensuring that everything is kept spic and span.
They also ensure that hygiene is maintained in school as they are responsible for keeping the water storage clean and covered and making sure that there is soap inside the washroom for washing hands after use.
All the brigades interact with their individual community members after school regularly so that their communities are benefited with their knowledge.
Interestingly, brigades change their duties every four months and each student gets the opportunity to be involved in cleaning, health activities and education by rotation.
Till now, around 8000 schools have introduced student brigades in different parts of the country
A mother of a student brigade member of Kazipur under Sirajganj district stated that her son explained to her about the dangers of open toilets.
“My son informed me about how open toilets could spread diseases and why we should wash both our hands before eating and after using the toilet,” she explained.
Her son makes sure that he washes his own hands before eating and encourages her to wash her hands with soap before serving him food, she said.
While Student Brigades are bringing about a change in the sanitation attitudes of their families and communities, there are other children who act as change makers by changing social attitudes about pressing issues such as child labour, child marriage and corporal punishment.
Adolescent and youth clubs around the country, organised by different local NGOs of respective areas, ensure the participation of young change agents who try to make their communities aware of evils of social practices as child marriage and corporal punishment.
Teenagers are trained by experts to speak on important issues with their families and communities through various media such as interactive popular theatre, whereby they stage plays in their localities, which tell how children and the society are affected because of some negative customs practiced by certain adults.
Change makers of an adolescent club in Rangpur actually saved a young girl’s life from lifelong misery as they prevented a child marriage from taking place with the help of a local police, Pulok Raha, Consultant, Communication for Development of UNICEF told us over the phone.
Children, when given the right direction, motivation and guidance, don’t merely bring about a change in their lives but can actually change the society in a way that the adults couldn’t even dream of and this is the lesson these young change makers teach us.