• Written by Jo Pratt
    18 August 2015

An initiative called the Three Star Approach to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Schools is being introduced across 15 pilot schools in Fiji. The initiative is a partnership between the Fiji Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts, the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services, the Fijian Teachers’ Association, the Access to Quality Education Program and UNICEF Pacific, and is being piloted in the island nation’s Nausori Education District.

Effective and low-cost approach

The Three Star Approach was developed by UNICEF to improve the effectiveness of WASH by enabling healthy habits to be taught, practiced, and integrated into daily school routines. Schools are encouraged to take simple, inexpensive steps to ensure that all students wash their hands with soap, have access to drinking water, and are provided with clean, gender-segregated toilets at school every day. This in turn helps to greatly reduce incidences of hygiene-related diseases such as diarrhoea, lice, trachoma, and scabies among school children, and the wider community. Once minimum standards are achieved, schools move from one to three stars by expanding hygiene promotion activities and improving infrastructure, especially for girls, until they ultimately achieve the national standards for WASH. In Fiji, the project is being piloted through a simple approach that emphasises behaviour change and continuous management. It aims to:

  • Educate teachers, students, and the school community on WASH using the Three Star Approach
  • Empower head teachers and principals to be agents of change for WASH
  • Identify and remove bottlenecks that block the effectiveness of WASH in schools programmes

Akvo has worked closely with the Pacific office of UNICEF since 2014, including in Vanuatu (supporting the Government of Vanuatu to implement a digital water system inventory and with the assessment of WASH-related damage after cyclone Pam), in Fiji and, most recently, in the Solomon Islands.

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Staff from the Fiji Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts, Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Fijian Teachers’ Association WASH Unit and UNICEF are involved in piloting the Three Star Approach to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Schools at 15 schools in the Nausori Education District. Top (left to right): Aporosa Duwai, Fiji Ministry of Education; Ulamila Vasuca, Head Teacher, Korovou Primary School; WASH CoordinatorKorovou Primary School and Waqairapoa Tikoisuva, UNICEF, at Korovou School. Above (left to right): M. Cakacaka, Ministry of Education with Fijian Teachers’ Association WASH Officers Tomasi Cama, Ateca Waqaniburotu, Alekisio Sela and Joeli Duri at Nasautoka School. 16 July 2015. Photos by Stefan Kraus.

What’s happening in Fiji?

In January this year, the Fiji WASH in Schools team went digital, using Akvo FLOW to quickly assess, map and monitor changes in WASH across all 15 pilot schools. FLOW is used to conduct surveys identifying bottlenecks that block the effectiveness of WASH in schools programmes so that these can be addressed, and ideas and approaches that link schools to government assistance frameworks based on their star achievements can be established. The Fiji Teachers’ Association has also incorporated Akvo RSR into its work to share updates from the field.

Fiji government records indicate that in 2013, 75% of schools had access to water supply and sanitation facilities, however anecdotal evidence suggests that the actual figure may be lower, due to inconsistencies of supply and poor maintenance. In terms of behaviour, no statistics are currently available on hygiene practices of students or school WASH management activities.

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Since the project started in late 2014, most of the 15 target schools have shown improved initiatives in prioritising WASH, and have seen marked changes in the behaviour of children. Many schools have been able to construct group hand washing facilities from simple and inexpensive materials, using existing capacity and knowledge within the school and nearby community. And many have also found innovative ways to ensure hand washing is conducted even when water is unavailable. Building on existing structures and behaviour-change programmes, the project demonstrates the capacity of teachers and students to be strong agents of change within their local communities.

Above (left to right): Suliasi Batikawai, WASH officer, Ministry of Health, with three teachers from the Nasautoka District School and Neori T., Fijian Teachers’ Association at Nasautoka School. Below: The team at Nasautoka School. 16 July 2015. Photos by Stefan Kraus.

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Stefan Kraus is Programme manager at Akvo, based in Canberra. You can follow him on Twitter @stefangk.This blog was updated 19 August 2015 to add year 2013 to figure of 75% WASH in schools and change “UNICEF” to “UNICEF Pacific”.

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