Impact of parents’ involvement in our WASH program
At Pencils of Promise (PoP) we believe all students deserve a healthy and safe learning environment. In-school water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programming serves as a medium for PoP to provide accessibility to safe drinking water, improved sanitation facilities and to educate students on healthy behaviors. WASH enhances the wellbeing of students and their families and enhances the opportunity for students to become agents of change. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that more than 400 million school days are lost each year because of water and sanitation-related diseases. PoP’s WASH program is an important piece of providing a safe and healthy school environment and the impact of WASH in schools extends to parents and the community at large. This is why the PoP WASH team in Ghana partners closely with Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and School Management Committees (SMCs) in the communities where we operate. PTAs are made up of teachers and parents who have children in the school; they meet and discuss the progress of activities within the school. The SMC, on the other hand, is made up of PTA representatives, the village chief, district assembly representatives and individual regional education office. SMCs control and oversee general policies within the school.
WHY INVOLVE PARENTS?
Success of WASH programming in schools takes teamwork and PoP cannot do it alone. Additional hands are needed to achieve our objectives and that is why we involve parents in the implementation of the WASH program. Parents play a major role in the lives of their children as far as water sanitation and hygiene is concerned. When parents understand the concept of the program, it makes implementation easier because they understand why they need to provide students with drinking cups, soap for handwashing, toilet paper, school uniforms and other hygiene materials.
IMPACT ON OUR WASH PROGRAM
Parents involvement in our program has been strong since the beginning of our school partnerships. Engagement has enabled them to understand the concept of what we do, how we do it and the importance of their role as parents. They are now comfortable to learn from their children and encourage everyone to practice what they preach. Most parents also construct tippy taps (such as the one pictured above) at home to help their children continue hand washing at critical times after school.
Photo of parent in Ghana demonstrating use of tippy tap to the community (photo credit: Margaret Mary Debre)
Most parents are embracing what we do in the schools and are assisting to maintain the practice among their children and promote consistent healthy behaviors beyond the presence of PoP. One particular PTA chairman applauded PoP for the amazing work we are doing. He encouraged parents to fulfill their part in providing their children the necessary hygiene materials they need to use in school. Mr. Jimmy Kpeta, the PTA Chairman of Bakpa Avedo Basic School, said, “PoP’s WASH program in our school is a great thing because school children will learn hygiene practices from childhood and it will become part of them.” This level of commitment and encouragement at the PTA level provides an opportunity for other community members to be educated on hygiene practices by parents of the students in PoP WASH schools.
The SMC Chairman of Atanve school, Mr Benjamin Quashie Hodzi, was pleased with the health education sessions at their PTA meetings and encouraged the team to continue the good work. These testimonials highlight that PoP’s WASH program is a great way to reach out to a larger group of people on WASH practices and create a sustainable change in health behavior.
As a team, we intend to continue building strong relationships with parents and communities at large. More collaboration with PTAs and SMCs will sustain our program for years to come, enabling parents and community members to take ownership of our program and feel involved. With this collective effort and everlasting partnership, PoP can continue to provide safe and healthy school environments where students and grow and thrive.