Guwahati, Nov 29: They may be quite young but lower primary school children in Assam are donning the mantle of torchbearers in handwashing to herald clean, hygienic and disease-free environment not only in their schools but also in their families and extended communities.
School begins an hour earlier for eight-year-old Karishma Kalita, of Pub Mazarigan LP School in Kamrup district, as she along with members of the child cabinet checks whether the water tank is filled, the hand washing area is cleaned and soaps are in their proper places so that their daily ritual of hand washing is not affected during the day.
The children of this school along with those in hundred other schools have assumed a role model status to spread the message that proper hygiene can be attained to a considerable extent by hand washing, ultimately leading to a disease-free society and less absenteeism in schools.
These children are a part of a pilot project of the Asom Sarba Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) Mission named 'Daily Handwashing for an Ailment free Life' (DHaAL) being implemented in three blocks of Kamrup district by the North Eastern Regional Cell of Centre for Environment Education (CEE North East) with technical and financial support from UNICEF.
SSA, UNICEF and CEE jointly piloted a Group Handwashing with Soap initiative in 100 schools of Rani and Rampur Blocks of Kamrup District in Assam to strengthen the practice of handwashing with soap before from the Mid-Day Meal, from July 2013, says UNICEF Assam Communication Officer Tahseen Alam.
The DHaAL project also developed a proper monitoring and maintenance system of group hand washing facilities, CEE North East's Programme Coordinator Simanta Kalita says.
The project, which will ultimately cover more than 15,000 schools across Assam, is aimed to create a disease-free environment in elementary schools through strengthening SSAs WASH Cell, facilitating roll-out of Nirmal Vidyalaya Puraskar in Assam and developing WASH model schools, Kalita says.
It also includes training key stakeholders, augmenting WASH facilities and setting up operation and maintenance system for group handwashing, he adds.
Besides influencing the children, the project has involved teachers, school management committees and the mothers' groups to promote healthy hygienic practices not only in school but also in their respective homes and the community at large.
"We have learnt the five basic rules of handwashing in schools and found our parents did not follow these. We have taught them how hands should be washed and now they, too, follow the same rules," says Namita Biswas, a class III student of Keotpara LP School in Azara.