Celebrating Global Hand Washing Day
Unexpected outcomes: how a school partnership between Bangladesh and the UK reduced diarrhoea related absenteeism by almost 90%
Tongi bazaar is a densely populated area near Dhaka. Many people in the community are unaware about their health. Many children suffer from diarrhoea related illnesses. In the heart of Tongi lies Siraj Uddin Sarker Vidyaniketan, an urban slum school that provides low cost education to the slum community. There are many things that make Siraj Uddin Sarker Vidyaniketan an exceptional school in Tongi, one being that along with four other local schools they are part of a British Council project called Connecting Classrooms. They have a partnership with a group of schools in England and as part of their shared commitment to international work in their schools, for the first time they decided to jointly celebrate “Global Hand Washing Day”. The students were taught good habits, such as regular hand washing before and after eating. Students practiced in school and then carried on at home, with remarkable results.
Rashed, a student of the school lives in the slum with his family. His story is similar to that of many other students in the school. “My father is a bus driver. We are a family of five and the place we live is unhealthy and dirty. As a result most of the family members, especially my younger brother and sister, are always suffering from diarrhoea, dysentery and stomach aches. Every month we have to spend nearly half of my father's income on doctors and medicine. After learning the importance of cleanliness from the Global Hand Washing Day celebration, we now always wash our hands before and after eating. Now my family is free from diseases. I help wash my little sister's hands. I also help my mother to keep the kitchen and living area as clean as possible. We do a lot of international work in our school with the students in the UK and I think this was an important event for us to celebrate together.“
Following the observation of the Global Hand Washing Day the Connecting Classrooms project students from the school organised themselves into small teams and did a survey of 100 families in their community. Surprisingly they found that there had been a huge reduction in the number of children admitted to hospital with fever and diarrhoea following the “Global Hand Washing Day”. The students visited the local health complex to find out more and were told that around 32 children were admitted to the health complex in the two months before the celebration. In the two months after the school observed Global Hand Washing Day, the number had dropped significantly to only three. Impressed by these results the students and teachers involved in the project decided to teach the wider community about the importance and benefits of hand washing. They will be continuing their activities round the year.
The British Council's Connecting Classrooms project in Bangladesh is a school partnership project, which also encourages all participating schools to share their international work with their local communities. Global Hand Washing day was one of a number of international events that the schools in Tongi and their partner schools celebrated together. The students have also worked together on geography, music, science and environment projects over the course of last year. Wadudur Rahman, the head teacher of Siraj Uddin Sarker Vidyaniketan said “Connecting Classrooms is a great project for my students and one that is having a real impact. The students enjoy taking part in these international events and it is opening their minds to the wider world, which is crucial for their development. It is exciting for the whole school to be part of an international project like this. We are very far from being an elite school, quite the opposite in fact, but it is just as important that my staff and students learn how to work with people from other countries.”
(Courtesy: Connecting Classroom Team, British Council)