Everyone at this primary school in West Bengal, India knows that a successful student is a healthy student.
Twice a year, the school of nearly 500 students holds a soap drive. Parents and children gather for a festive celebration, and the families bring donated soap and hygiene supplies for the school to use. Soaps, buckets, scrub brushes, and sanitizers are assembled while children share messages of good health and proper hygiene through songs, plays, and decorated signs.
Hygiene education, including proper handwashing techniques, is an integral part of this school’s curriculum. Water For People works with schools to train the teachers and develop plans and messages for instilling healthy hygiene habits in the young students. If schools lack the budget for necessary supplies, setting up the soap drives ensures a bank of hygiene materials for student and teacher use.
From daily songs to paintings on the walls, the students are always reminded of the importance of hygiene. This knowledge spreads through the community as the young students enthusiastically take what they learn during day home to their families.
Neelima, whose daughter is in the 4th grade, experiences this enthusiasm. "Whatever is taught in school, like washing hands after using the toilet or before eating food, she comes home and tells us everything."
"We didn’t have a separate bar of soap for washing hands after using the toilet," Manorana, mother of a 3rd grader shared. "But my son came home and told me you should have one bar for washing hands before eating and a different bar for the bathroom."
These mothers are happy to support the soap drives, and enjoy the eager lessons brought home to the rest of their families. They see the importance of handwashing and the direct connection to their children’s health.
Rupa, mother of a 3rd grader, shares her experience. "My daughter had fevers and stomach aches. Every month I would spend 500-1000 rupees on just medical expenses, but not anymore. This is because of their personal hygiene and handwashing. Now she is healthy."