On November 21st, the hygiene certification ceremony of 152 schools took place at the Montana Hotel in Port-au-Prince.
This activity was organized by the Ministry of National Education in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and Population, DINEPA, UNICEF and several other partners including the Inter-American Development Bank.
The project/program officially launched in November 2014, aims at the constitution of a number of model schools, in hygiene, in each of the ten departments of the country. In order to receive their certification, the 152 schools had to comply with a number of standards and criteria related to hygiene, water and sanitation.
Deserving schools represented at the ceremony all demonstrated during the inspections that they had available toilets and latrines, handwashing points near the toilets, the availability of water for everyday use and that technical supervision was provided by school inspectors and engineers. School principals also presented their commitment and participation in hygiene education and the establishment of a functioning health club in their respective institutions.
New hygiene behaviors
“I find that there are a lot of differences because now we are trying to create new hygiene behaviors among students. Says Emeline Rafael, director of the Jérémie Young Women’s High School, just after receiving her plaque confirming the certification of her institution.
“They are given guidelines but it is up to them to manage their own health conditions, they are young teenagers from 11 to 12 years, they understand very well what we expect from them. They are asked to set up committees and give them instructions on hygiene. They are taught to have positive behaviors, to wash their hands after going to the bathroom if not, they do get sick and go out of school. If we are not in good health, we will not stay in school either, says the director.
“The certification of the schools is an absolute necessity. The analysis of the situation carried out in 2012 gives the following figures: 25% of Haitian schools have drinking water installation, 50% have functional toilets, 69% have handwashing station. 52% of them teach hygiene or promote it.” Said Mr. Marc Vincent, UNICEF Representative during his remarks.
13 schools supported by UNICEF
During this first evaluation in 2017, of the 17 certified schools in the departments of the Center and Artibonite, 13 are supported by UNICEF (9 in the Center and 4 in the Artibonite). 8 other schools in Artibonite are ready and awaiting evaluation for their certification.
The schools that UNICEF helped rebuild across the country, after the January 12 earthquake are all equipped with toilet blocks with possibility of collecting rainwater because the issue of water can be a challenge in some parts of the country. UNICEF also conducted hygiene awareness sessions for school staff and schoolchildren.
“This certification will help to make schools safer. Because of the insalubrity of some schools, they can become a threat to the health of children. School should be a protective environment. We know they are particularly vulnerable to microbes and the health of our children is a top priority, “said UNICEF Representative Marc Vincent.
Still a lot of effort
Despite the success of this program, there is still much work to be done. According to the latest available statistics, the pupil/toilet ratio in Haiti is currently 128, whereas the standards provide for 25 to 50 students per cabin. 72% of the Haitian population does not have access to adequate sanitation and 42% do not have adequate access to drinking water while access to health services is limited. Even though 20% of drinking water control in schools is provided by DINEPA, 73% of schools in the country still have no control over the quality of this water.
In this sense, through the representative of the Director General, Mr. Guito Edouard, DINEPA is committed to strengthening its collaboration in the project to enable the achievement of common objectives for the well-being of Haiti’s children.
All children have the same rights
“UNICEF places a lot of emphasis on equity that advocates for access to care and service for all children without distinction. All children have the same rights. These certified schools are in line with Sustainable Development Goals 3, 4 and 6, which refer to “good health and well-being, quality education, clean water and sanitation, respectively. We need to do a lot more, so that the SDGs, more than accounting goals, become a reality, “said UNICEF Representative Marc Vincent.
The project carried out by the School Health Department aimed to certify over 2 years, a minimum of 100 schools, (10 on average per department), from the point of view ” water, sanitation and hygiene “, so as to propose them as models at national level. With already 152 schools that have been awarded the certification, the country is on the right track.
Hygiene, keys to development
Mr. Charles Ernest Chatelier, Director General of the FAES, declared in front of the room: “Let’s all be friends of the hygiene because it is one of the keys of the development of the country.”
Establishments certified received a plaque of honor. This status will be reviewed every two or three years, after evaluation. A new sticker will then be affixed to the plate in case of maintenance of good hygiene practices. Other institutions will gradually be added to the list, at the level of each geographical department.
“We have to go beyond a simple project. We need to build better citizens, “said Pierre Josué Agénor Cadet, Minister of National Education.
Through this program, the Ministry of National Education intends to: make known and propose as models, at the national level, the certified schools; encourage principals, school staff, students, parents and the community to maintain schools, with the support of the School Health Department; to encourage the regular inspection of these schools from the physical, health and educational points of view; Encourage the establishment in these institutions of a health club made up of pupils and operating under the aegis of the Direction and / or the School Council; to show decision-makers and the general public that, as things stand, health is the best gateway to excellence and the quality of education.
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