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Making children the change agents
" Singing of children resound the air as we approach to the Uddaramanahalli village government school in Sira Taluq of Tumkur district in Karnataka. A three-day children’s camp on personal and community "

Procession in village survey


Singing of children resound the air as we approach to the Uddaramanahalli village government school in Sira Taluq of Tumkur district in Karnataka. A three-day children’s camp on personal and community hygiene has just begun under the guidance of UNICEF.

Cleanliness and hygiene can be achieved only when there’s a sense of ownership and participation. UNICEF along with its partners has worked with the idea of instituting students’ cabinets in schools. The cabinets, with various ministries like education, sports, health, culture etc., manage roles and responsibilities assigned to them. Having recorded stupendous success with this experiment, UNICEF has begun to expand this idea in other schools too.

These hygiene workshops are a conscious decision to address issues immediately relevant to them. The workshop is a moving force for both the students and teachers since UNICEF strongly believes that teachers’ wield tremendous influence on students.

“Our experience at UNICEF reveals that children are the best change agents at both home and in the community. We believe that if we target the children, they will in turn bring change in the family and thereby the entire community.,” says, Mrs. Sukanya Subramanian, Assistant Project Officer – Education for Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka at Hyderabad Field Office of UNICEF.

Day One
Day one session starts with a small quiz on personal health and hygiene. “I never used to wash my hands like this. I’ve now learnt how to do it properly to avoid germs from entering my stomach,” says Thippesh, a fifth standard student, after the first session on washing hands.

The session was about methodically washing hands before meals and after visiting the toilet: wet your hands, apply soap, rub both hands well and even clean the fingernails. The resource persons first demonstrated how to do it and followed it up with practicals for students. Thippesh and his friends were surprised to see for themselves the difference between washing hands first without and then with soap.

The second session discusses the roles and responsibilities of the school cabinets. Students point out the common roles to be performed by more than one student and also add or delete responsibilities to lend clarity to each student’s role.

Drama helps learning


Day Two

Day two of the workshop is much more interesting, for, it’s participatory. Participant students and teachers conduct a ‘Village Sanitation Survey’ (VSS). Villagers stand up and take notice even as young students in uniform carry placards and shout slogans on health and hygiene taking out a procession through various village streets. . The VSS is intended to impress upon the students the importance of community hygiene. VSS makes the students realise the importance of community hygiene.
Youngsters note down details related to sanitation: The number of cow dung pits, places of open defecation, uncovered drains, livestock spaces and drinking water points and their distance from polluting sources. Back at the school, participants are asked to rate the village in terms of sanitation from the data they’ve collected, along with their observations. These sanitation survey details are used to convince the students to make the villagers aware of a cleaner environment. “I belong to this village but it never struck me it was this bad. I shall work with my classmates to tell the villagers how to keep it clean,” announced Ramesh before the session ended.

Post lunch, it’s time for practicals again. Participants learn to prepare a soak pit and a compost pit. “The idea behind constructing a soak pit is to re-direct the waste water from the taps to a pit which can improve ground water level and to avoid stagnation leading to diseases from mosquitoes,” says Ramya, a fifth standard student. The day concludes as students learn about toilet sanitation.

Day Three

Day three is full of activities and fun. On one side a play on Ram and Shyam conveys messages on the benefits of a clean environment and on the other side a quiz on the learning and effectiveness of the exercise, challenges the students. There are also games like ‘students on paper’ stressing on the importance of using toilets and avoiding open defecation.

Post lunch focus is on the various charts enabling the students to maintain a weekly record of personal and school hygiene. The three-day event concludes with the workshop anthem—the swatchate song.

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