GUWAHATI, Dec 5 - A group of schoolchildren from different government schools in and around the city took part in a conversation on �Group Handwashing in Schools,� organised by sanitation scribes and supported by UNICEF, Assam, recently.
The conversation was organised in association with Thumb Print Foundation and Shishu Sarothi. A student, Nishita, said, �I frequently used to suffer from fever and cold, and so could not attend school most of the time. After we had been exposed to the importance of daily handwashing in school, I started feeling much better and scarcely remain absent from school now after I began practising it daily.�
Tahseen Alam, Communication Officer, UNICEF, speaking about the aim of the conversation, said that the programme was aimed at knowing how WASH (Water and Sanitation Hygiene) was relevant in the context of Assam.
Senior journalist Priyanka Borpujari, the moderator, steered the conversation by making the participants come up with their experiences, views and suggestions in the forum.
Apurba Thakuria, SPO, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, informed the gathering that there were 50,000 schools in Assam under the SSA with 65 lakh students. The Public Health Engineering department is in charge of developing the infrastructure for providing safe drinking water and toilets to each and every school. There are very few schools now which lack these facilities.
�The process of group handwashing is the best way to inspire one another, and good feeling is fostered when it is done looking at one another. We do the work in a disciplined manner as we learn to use less water and make a queue to wash hands,� he said. Sumi Borkotoky, SPO, SSA, said that the students, who represented their schools in the discussion, must carry the message forward. She also talked about the importance of keeping toilets clean to prevent germs from affecting children.
�The students have a huge role to play in this regard as they must spread the message in their schools, their locality and the society at large. Things learned by 40 students today need to be carried out to 40,000 schools,� Chaya from UNICEF said.
Simanta Kalita, programme coordinator, Centre for Environment Education (CEE), giving a briefing on the implementation of the DHaAL (Daily Handwashing for an Ailment Free Life) project under UNICEF, stressed that it was necessary to ask at least 10 hygiene-related questions every day to the students, such as whether they have bathed, trimmed their nails, washed their hands after using the toilet and before eating their meals � a method which would be very effective to make students imbibe the habit of daily handwashing. The process entails training of teachers, educating and creating awareness, policy advocacy and so on.
A group of sanitation scribes were also a part of the conversation. The teachers of the schools also shared their experiences and views on the issue.
Anamoy Niramoy, a short play directed by Umesh Goswami and performed by students of Medhipara LP School on WASH, was appreciated by all. Two short films on the issue produced by UNICEF were also screened. Journalist Teresa Rehman expressed her gratitude for the stimulating discussion with everyone, especially children.