“My Health Is in My Hands!” School Kids Take Responsibility as BFI's WinS Project Begins
From Evbuotubu Primary school, Ugiagbe Primary school to Dayspring Nursery, Primary, Junior and Senior secondary schools, the slogan was the same: “”! School kids affirmed their resolve. The Beautiful Feet International (BFI) WinS project is making them catch on how to take responsibility for their own health and wellness in school and at home as a good way to securing their future despite the prevailing poor environmental learning conditions they are daily being subjected to due to annual flooding, environmental degradation and government neglect which has made WASH emergency higher in the area. All the schools in the WinS project are in Evbuotubu, a flood prone community in Egor Local Government Area of Edo State, Nigeria.
The BFI team of media and development specialists in collaboration with Horizon International is currently offering WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) education outreach materials to schools in flood-prone areas of the country as an intervention. Working together with local educators, the media service of BFI is currently visiting schools in selected communities in Edo State where they engage with schoolchildren on health and wellness education. They are distributing for free WASH4All comic books and other info-graphics aimed at teaching schoolchildren the importance of clean water, good hygiene, and improved sanitation practices that will ultimately reduce the prevalence of water-borne childhood illnesses. This effort is made possible with additional support of a seed grant from The Pollination Project (TPP) and the support of individual friends of BFI.
The ongoing school-to-school youth engagement health and wellness outreach and distribution of free copies of WASH4All comics by the Beautiful Feet International (BFI) kicked off on Friday, October 14, 2016, as part of activities to mark the world Hand Washing Day 2016. It is an innovative educational program by BFI aimed at promoting access to clean water and improvement in sanitation and hygiene in local schools.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 2.4 to 2.6 billion individuals worldwide currently lack access to clean water and sanitation facilities. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the lack of access to clean water and sanitation has resulted in an unprecedented rate of childhood death and disease, with current regional estimates indicating that one child dies every minute from water-borne illnesses, especially malaria.
The choice of Evbuotubu Primary School and Ugiagbe Primary School as the first port of call for this exercise by the BFI media service was strategic: it was the WASH challenges in these public primary schools that prompted the media research and investigative journalism reports in the Nigerian media by, which finally resulted in the conception and production of the first edition of the WASH4All comic book series by Horizon International and the MediaBFI.
It is available for free in digital form and can be downloaded at http://www.solutions-site.org/sites/default/files/WASH%204%20All%201%20090314.pdf
The flooding situation at the Evbuotubu Primary School has entered its 19th year as community sources say. Year after year the schoolchildren learn in the conditions of a mosquito-infested environment. Their entire school premises have been overtaken by flood and bushes. The school buildings are gradually submerged in flood water. They have no access to drinking water, no functional latrine. The negative impact of the WASH situation on the health, psychology, self-esteem of these children at Evbuotubu primary school, and indeed the overall intellectual development and academic output and effectiveness of both teachers and pupils has remained a source of concern to many child development advocates.
The BFI WinS project is a creative education strategy employed by Odupute and his team to directly engage with the schoolchildren and possibly proffer temporary measures to mitigate the worsening WASH situation at Evbuotubu Primary School until more tangible help comes to the school from the government of Edo State to permanently arrest the deteriorating situation.
Background stories on the Evbuotubu Primary School flooding problems and environmental challenges in the community can be accessed online at: www.solutions-site.org/node/832; http://www.globalfreepress.org/departments/features/3956-the-evbuotubu-crisis.
The special comic book, WASH4All comics, 1st of a planned 13 editions in the series, is titled “Schoolchildren Battle Malaria and other Diseases.” It has been offered for free download worldwide since September 16, 2014, by Horizon International and MediaBFI. However, because most of the real targets of the comics are grassroots schoolchildren who don’t have access to the internet, it became necessary to make print copies of the comics available for free to these sets of audiences in selected local schools where WASH need is among the highest anywhere in the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Some of the issues addressed in each school visited by the MediaBFI team included:· What personal hygiene means;
· The importance of sanitation in the school;
· How you can defy the flooding to keep your classes and school clean;
· How malaria is contacted and how you can prevent malaria;
· Why you should watch your hands regularly with soap;
· How to properly wash your hands with soap;
· Puberty, menstruation and sexuality, what you should know; and
· How to be responsible for your health and wellness.
After the health talk in each school, there are question and answer sessions. Some children have asked personal health questions while others just wanted more clarification on certain terms used during the health talks.
All the children thus far reached were happy for the information they received, especially for the free comics. The pupils and students were encouraged by MediaBFI to form WASH clubs in their schools in order to put to practice all they learnt about improving the WASH situations in their school environments, and as a way to attract future visitations and support from the BFI team and other concerned people.
The school teachers also collected copies of the free comics for themselves as adult participants who wish to keep sharing with their pupils the lessons learnt from the health outreach and to help organize thriving WASH clubs with students. Their hope is to trigger a culture of cleanliness and environmental friendliness in their schools.
School heads and teachers of all schools so far visited thanked the BFI team and the sponsors of the project and asked for more of such visits in the future.
As of January 2017, the BFI WASH in Schools (BFI WinS) project has successfully fostered educative dialogue between the organizers and many schoolchildren, enlightened many children and answered some major questions they have about WASH, puberty/sexuality and other related health issues affecting young people in Nigeria – all within the prism of “edutainment” and graphic humor. The WinS project has also enabled the organizers to interface with teachers, school heads and other relevant authorities and stakeholders, some of whom shed lights on how to make the project succeed better and how to make more impact in a sustainable way.
The project was originally named “WASH@Schools Project” by MediaBFI, but recently changed to “WinS (WASH in School) Project” as a way to align with similar efforts by the UNICEF’s global networks and efforts on the matter.
The BFI WinS project phase 1 continues till December, 2017, with the hope of engaging at least 10,000 Nigerian schoolchildren to be well informed and equipped to take proactive steps to improving their personal WASH cultures, starting from their school environments, in the spirit of securing their future, health wise. Meanwhile, the second edition of WASH4All comics series is being planned for production soon by MediaBFI and Horizon International and other partners.
This article and photographs are by Francis U. Odupute, Founder and head of BFI.
It was published by Horizon International on 2 January 2017.
About Beautiful Feet International (BFI):
The Beautiful Feet International (BFI) Ministry is a faith-based organization in Nigeria whose objectives include charity, youth empowerment, moral suasion/evangelism, development education and community health/WASH issues, media advocacy, and educational literature distribution, among other development efforts. Since its establishment in 1998, BFI has collaboratively networked internationally to bring about sustainable youth as well as moral capital development and wholesome living in the society, the latest of which is the CARTOON AFRICA INTERNATIONAL BIENNIAL (CAIB) festival hosted by Nigeria.
About UNICEF WASH in Schools:
"The Call to Action for WASH in Schools supports global efforts to make the vision shared by WASH in Schools partners a reality: a world where all children go to school and all schools provide a safe, healthy and comfortable environment where children grow, learn and thrive."