Nicaragua -Yes to School Hygiene and Environmental Sanitation Project

Updated - Monday 22 August 2016

Year of publication: 2002

Who gave me the nails, the fingers, the knuckles, the palms, the fragile wrists? (Daisy Zamora, Nicaraguan poet)

Questioning yourself about your body, its figure, and the origin of its forms, to know and to value yourself as the basis for your personal care is an element present in health education based on the life skills approach. The Nicaraguan school community has come to understand this. Since March 2001, when they organized a national workshop to launch a school hygiene and environmental sanitation project, they have been carrying out different activities to develop teachers’ and students’ emotional intelligence.

A high level of participation and compromise from the school community and various institutions has characterized the programme's development. Today school hygiene is an interesting topic that enjoys the attention of not only those directly involved in the project, but also of local authorities.

The project is being implemented in 17 schools situated in different regions in the country, stretching from the South Atlantic coast to Madriz, Nueva Segovia, Esteli, Boaco, Chinandega, Matagalpa and Leon. Based on a survey in which teachers, children and parents participated, the main problems of each school were identified as: existing sanitary units that are not separated by gender and/or by age, which are used by an average of 35 to 338 children; and schools with no access to water or that use untreated water.

The project has helped to strengthen an institutional agreement between the ministries of Education, Culture and Sports, Natural Resources and the Environment, the Nicaraguan Institute of Aqueducts and Sewer Systems, and its Rural Aqueducts Department. Thanks to UNICEF's support, these institutes have formed an inter-sectoral work group that coordinates the project's activities.

In a participatory process, designs that meet the girls’ requests regarding their privacy and wellbeing were created to solve infrastructure problems. The girls in particular complained about the condition of the sanitary units. Some of the girls did not want to use the toilet because boys used the holes in the walls and roof for peeping at them, or because pre-school children urinated and defecated on the latrine floor since they could not reach the bowls. Others were inhibited from using the facilities because of the bad smell. It must be emphasized that nowadays parents, children and teachers have good skills in blueprint reading, and in the elaboration of models for sanitary units. This experience has demonstrated that actors who are generally excluded from the decision-making processes concerning technical aspects can contribute if they are consulted, and if their views are taken into account.

School hygiene is a crosscutting element in the Nicaraguan primary school curricula but many schools lack didactic materials. A creative one-day workshop for teachers was held during the course of the project, to appropriate techniques to create visual material, puppets, songs, and theatre. Also, an examination of the curricula revealed that the constructive humanistic approach that guides them offers many starting points to build in hygiene education based on the life skills approach.

There is optimism among the Nicaraguan inter-institutional group. School teams have been trained to follow up construction activities in which master builders were also involved, and they have also prepared plans to follow up the project's sustainability. The school hygiene and environmental sanitation project will end soon but work on a wider scale in many schools throughout the country is just getting started. A cross-sector group supported by UNICEF will soon launch the Friendly and Healthy School Initiative, which will work on quality teaching/learning, warmth and success, friendly and safe physical-environmental conditions, water, school hygiene and sanitation, health and school nutrition, and civic responsibility and democracy. The Initiative will be developed in 200 schools across the country.

Mariela Garcia from Cinara – Published for UNICEF Nicaragua

The downloadable document is in Spanish.

- Download:
nicaragua.pdf (12.5 kB)


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