Health and learning go hand-in-hand: better prospects for children’s education and future

29.08.2016 – GIZ's Fit for School programme supports ministries of education across South-East Asia in improving hygiene in schools and facilitating a healthy environment for learning.

‘Water for Sustainable Growth’ is the theme of this year’s World Water Week, which is taking place in Stockholm from 28 August to 2 September 2016. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is participating in the conference and will be presenting a number of its projects dedicated to equal access to water and sanitation.

In many South-East Asian countries, for example, children suffer from preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea, acute respiratory diseases and dental caries, often as a result of poor hygiene. This hampers children’s development – and their schooling. In its Fit for School programme, GIZ is working with its regional partner, the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), to support the ministries of education in Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines in improving hygiene and health in schools. The programme has been commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Fit for School focuses on activities that can be readily integrated into the school day or led by teachers – such as brushing teeth with toothpaste or washing hands regularly with soap before meals. The children are also dewormed twice each year. A further programme activity involves improving the children’s water supplies and sanitary services, for example through the installation of hand washing stations in schools.

The programme’s term runs until 2018, but the results are already visible today. A study in Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and the Philippines has shown that children in schools where Fit for School is in operation suffer between 17 and 38 per cent fewer new dental caries. Furthermore, water and sanitary facilities in schools have improved significantly. In Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos there are already hand washing stations equipped with water and soap in 87 to 95 per cent of the Fit for School participating schools. According to the Department of Education, in the Philippines alone there are more than 2 million children taking part in the programme. Based on these positive results, the education ministries have now begun to expand the programme on their own initiative.

The initiative was also cited by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation as an example of successful South-South and triangular cooperation for sustainable development. Through its work in the field of water, sanitation and hygiene (‘WASH’), Fit for School is making a major contribution to attaining the sustainable development goals (SDGs) adopted at the United Nations summit in New York in September 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda.