Thursday, 31 July 2014

Check list for a healthy life

By Nova Fransisca Silitonga, Corporate Partnership Officer, UNICEF Indonesia

Have you washed your hands with soap? Had breakfast? Brushed your teeth? Pooed in the loo? Cleaned your ears?

These are some of the questions pupils at Elementary School SDN 69 in Galesong village, Takalar District, South Sulawesi have to answer every morning.

Their teachers ask them to fill in a wall chart to show which activities they’ve completed, and which they haven’t. The exercise is designed to encourage pupils to be honest while also teaching them how to have a healthy lifestyle.

The school in Galesong village is one of 93 in the district whose teachers were trained by UNICEF in sanitation and hygiene in 2011.

Pupils at the SDN 69 Elementary School
©UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Nova Fransisca Silitonga
Since then, they’ve been using methods like the wall chart to encourage the children to lead healthy lives.

UNICEF also provided the school with new hand washing and water facilities, thanks to funds from Dubai Cares.

Improving sanitation and hygiene is a key challenge in many parts of Indonesia.
Almost one in six people in Indonesia still doesn’t have access to safe drinking water. Indonesia is second only to India for the number of people still practicing open defecation.
Both are key contributing factors to high rates of diarrhoea and related child deaths.

Headteacher Ibu Hj ST Hijrah with the health and hygiene chart
©UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Nova Fransisca Silitonga
When I visited SDN 69 last month, the head teacher, Ibu Hj ST Hijrah, told me that three years after the teacher training, efforts to improve and maintain hygiene standards among pupils were still going strong.

Each year, one pupil is selected to become the “little doctor” and given information on health and hygiene to pass on to his or her peers.

This practice is repeated at schools across the district and last year the Takalar District’s Development and Planning Agency organised a jamboree that included a competition to find the best “little doctor” in Takalar.

As I flew back home, I was still amazed by how much a simple wall chart could change the behaviour of the school’s teachers and pupils and give them a healthier lifestyle.
They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and thanks to UNICEF, these children will be grateful for taking the first steps towards healthy lives at an early age.