The Fit for School program - Education project in Philippines
Daily routines are key to creating good habits for a lifetime
The Fit For School program was implemented in Philippines, that aiming to address the hygiene deficiency related diseases by integrating daily group hand washing, tooth brushing and bi-annual deworming as well as daily toilet cleaning and maintenance into the school routine.
The project and the experiences:
Many Philippine schools and daycare centers have joined the “Essential Health Care Program” (EHCP) as response to a number of serious health problems faced by elementary school and daycare children on the archipelago and is based on the Fit for School Approach. EHCP is a national hygiene promotion program that encourages children to practice the skills of regular hand washing with soap and tooth brushing with fluoride toothpaste as a part of their daily routine in the school to facilitate and sustain healthy behaviour. It currently reaches 2.5 million children in Philippine Elementary Schools. The kids enjoy the activities when they perform them together with their peers. “At first, I thought it would be very difficult to implement this program with the children. But I realised that after a few weeks, children easily perform the daily routine of washing their hands and then brushing their teeth. In fact, they enjoy doing it every day. It is not difficult after all. Also, I find so much fulfillment that, in my own small way, I am teaching children a very simple habit that will have a lifetime impact on their health when they grow older. Health is wealth!” Ms. Liezl Catapang, a day care worker, proudly announces. In addition to the daily activities, biannual deworming is conducted. Studies have shown that already after one year of implementation, the prevalence of high intensity worm infections, oral infections, absenteeism and malnourished children have significantly decreased. The continuous supply of soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste for the children is a prerequisite for the implementation. Costs amount to only 25 Pesos (which is less than $1USD) per child for the entire school year, paid by the local governments.
The GIZ Fit for School Program, working in the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia together with their partners SEAMEO, UNICEF and DFAT (formerly AusAID) are now focusing on the issue of sanitation in schools by building upon the experiences of the hygiene promotion interventions. Improvements in sanitation are expected to further enhance the health of children. In the Philippines, most of the existing toilets are built inside or attached to classrooms. Though they are well maintained as teachers want their classrooms to be tidy and clean, they offer only little privacy. Many schools also lack functional, gender-separated and enough sanitary facilities leading to open defecation, to holding back the urge to use the toilet, and not washing hands with soap after using the toilet. Against this backdrop, the key task is to identify simple, scalable and sustainable measures to improve sanitation in elementary schools and daycare centres that can be maintained, operated and kept clean by the schools in the long run.
In some schools different designs of toilet, urinal (male and female) and handwashing facilities were implemented, mostly rehabilitated, and sometimes newly constructed in order to address these challenges. “In school we had only few toilets and we often defecated and urinated near the school. It is awful being seen defecating outside in an open area. The new toilets are comfortable and great for privacy, as boys cannot see us anymore when using the toilet. I also do not have to hold the urine anymore and wait until I go home,” says Loren, a student at one of the participating schools.
In parallel, and most crucial, the program and the schools developed simple tools for students and teachers to encourage daily cleaning of school grounds and toilets as well as light regular maintenance and small repair tasks that can be accomplished by the school community without involvement of technical experts. It can be observed that children love to engage themselves if roles and duties are distributed in a fair way, rotated regularly and have different levels of responsibility and reputation. The aim is to integrate regular cleaning into the daily school activities. These interventions address, often, poor cleaning and maintenance practices in schools, ensure that schools improve their management, and keep school grounds and facilities clean and usable. This is the first step towards a healthy learning environment and behaviour change.
And it is seen as the pre-condition for schools to proof their management skills prior to investments in infrastructure. The schools are monitored regularly through observations, focus group discussions with children and teachers, and semi-structured interviews with school principals and local authorities as part of accompanying research. The collected data provide valuable feedback to facilitate a culture of cleaning and maintenance of toilets in public schools. “School-based management appears to be a key element for sustainability,” says Bella Monse from GIZ Philippines. It puts the school in charge of developing and implementing a School Improvement Plan and a related School Operating Budget. This enables the school to allocate resources more effectively in the best interests of the students and institutionalise operation and maintenance routines. This is an important step to establish a sense of shared responsibility of the entire school community.
Involving the communities through Parent-Teacher Associations has also shown to be very successful. For example, parents and communities are involved in the construction of hand-washing facilities and take an active role in program monitoring. Community involvement increases ownership of parents to take a role to improve their school and be proud of it. Community participation also puts pressure on school management and the local government to perform their duties.
Key lessons of the story
"It is clear that without proper education, health suffers. And without proper health, good education is not possible." - Gro Harlem Brundtland, Former WHO Director General
Contribution to the SuSanA sustainability criteria
Promote health and hygiene effectively: Daily group hand washing can change behaviour and be fun!
Promote health and hygiene effectively: Schools learning simple management skills which keep wash facilities clean and functional–making it a fun activity is one key to success.
Socially acceptable and institutionally appropriate: An interactive monitoring process with users and stakeholders leads to development of context specific solutions.
Technically appropriate, including O&M & financially and economically viable: Strengthening school-based management and making sure operation and maintenance is properly budgeted.
Project location: Elementary schools and daycare centres across the Philippines
Executing institution: GIZ
Project partners: Fit For School Inc., UNICEF, DFAT
GIZ provide services worldwide in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development. GIZ has over 50 years of experience in a wide variety of areas, including economic development and employment, energy and the environment, and peace and security.
Fit for School Inc.(FIT) is a Philippine non-government organization that works closely with the health and education sectors, various development agencies and private partners on effective school health programs. We offer information, technical assistance and a high-level network to support the institutionalization of school health programs.