STARS visit to School Health Clubs

Report on field visit by Regis Matimati

3 August 2014.

STARS support organizations that work with children in Health, Education, Protection and WASH in 3 global regions (the Americas, Africa- Asia and Latin America) and is offering awards to the most sustainable projects. We have passed the first selection of 277 applications and are in the semi finals along with 39 other applicants.

Samia Zoued, the Stars Foundation Programme Officer – Africa /The Middle East came with a photographer to assess Zim AHEAD’s eligibility for the $100,000.00 unrestricted funding award.

As STARS is particularly focused on children we concentrated on our School Health Clubs and took Samia and the photographer to Gutu District, three hours south of the capital, Harare. We first went to the District Administrator’s office  and met the District Education Officer, who accompanied us to three schools. The Programme had been funded by EU though Action Contra la Faim and Zim AHEAD had been subcontracted to provide the community mobilization through community and school health clubs. As such 50 School Health Clubs had been formed in 2012-2013. We randomly sampled three of the schools to visit to see how they were fearing seven months after the end of the project.

Cheninga Primary School (600 pupils)

The School Head and the School Based Facilitator gave an overview of the School Health Clubs, and Samia asked a lot of questions on impact assessments regarding the level of disease prevalence before and after the intervention. The local Environmental Health Techincian responded saying there was a significant reduction in clinic attendance by pupils from  the schools in the Zim AHEAD project. The community health and hygiene outlook had significantly improved due to the influence the children impressed on their families. The teachers also reported reduction in water and sanitation related disease absenteeism. We were shown SHC demographics and it was impressive to note that they SHC had 50 new club members enrolled this year after Zim AHEAD had left at the end of last year, showing sustainability of the concept of SHCs.

We then toured the school yard where we saw that the tippy taps erected outside every classroom door were still being used regularly. It was clear that they were being repaired  and the practice of hand washing had stayed. Even the SHC venue was maintained and visibly used. The school’s ablution facility had several tippy taps and soap that showed constant use. The school fetches water from a borehole about 500 meters away since their diesel water pump broke down last year and they have not been able to fix it.

We then were ‘edu-tained’ to some song and dance, news and poems. The whole school from the creche to Grade 7 gathered and visibly enjoyed the session. It was so engaging and informative. Everyone was impressed particularly Samia who had not seen the SHCs in action. She showed us with compliments.

We then escorted one 12 year old girl to her home about a kilometer from the school. She stays with her grandmother and her home was very clean with pot racks, tippy taps and a clean beautified kitchen. The grandmother gave testimony that her home had changed for the better since her granddaughter joined the school health club activities. We also noted that at three homes before the girl’s home the environment was typical of the club communities with tippy taps and clean toilets. The neighbor, a retired teacher came to greet us and he attributed the environmental changes to the young girl’s teachings to the surrounding households. After a lot of photo shots, we  bade farewell to the villagers we proceeded to Cheninga Secondary School

Cheninga Secondary School (about 400 pupils)

This school was reported to have done very well during our implementation in 2013. However, on the visit we saw that only one of the 7 tippy tapes that were visible was functional with some water and soap hung in place. The functional tippy tap was at the staff toilet, which indicated that at least the teachers were still washing their hands! The rest of the tippy taps had no water with very little evidence of them having had water for some time as the ground underneath them was dry. The School Based facilitator said the water in the tippy taps had been used up in the morning break time and had not been replenished. We gathered that the nearest borehole was about 3 km away and replenishing the water took time and was only done once a day. The school is built on a rocky layer and borehole drillers had failed to find water nearby. The school health club had not met since Zim AHEAD had completed the training. The School Based Facilitator cited lack of time in her busy high school curriculum as a hindrance to sustaining the club. The headmaster who is new at the school said he will see to it that the club is revived. The School Development Committee member who attended the tour was visibly not happy that the School Health Club was neglected. He took notes laboriously. The District Education Officer said he will make a comprehensive report to all schools heads especially the secondary schools to prioritize the SHCs in their next heads’ meeting. This visit illustrates how visitors can have a positive impact on those they visit, highlighting the need for supervision to ensure  sustainability, and encouraging on going activities in case of such spot checks.

Kufonya Primary School (405 pupils)

We were greeted by an enthusiastic deputy headmaster who took us to the club venue. The School Based Facilitator has 3 other teachers supporting her in the club with 60 new pupils for this year. The whole school gathered at the venue signifying the importance the club issues have to the school administration. Very eloquent dance, poems, songs and skits were presented. The pupils showed deep understanding of the health and hygiene issues. The headmaster who was away on a district commitment had his erudite speech read by the deputy. He spoke glowingly about the SHCs. He mentioned that the school health club had assumed the responsibility of policing and educating the other pupils and the school environment had changed. As well the pupils were healthier than before. This was corroborated by the local EHT. We noticed however that the tippy taps that had been there as a result of our training in the SHC had gone but in their place was a permanent brick hand wash tank with a single tap at the toilet constructed by ACF. We discussed this with the School Based Facilitator. We also noted that while the bigger tank was convenient in holding volumes of water, it should not have replaced the tippy taps. The school has a solar powered borehole nearby supplying them with water. We bade farewell and were invited to the forth coming graduation day for the SHC around October. They requested support on certificates but we impressed upon them to make their own. ACF had been Zim AHEADs partner in the project the previous year and was responsible for all the construction of latrines and hand washing facilities. Whilst the construction of this permanent facility showed that inputs had been implemented as planned it also reduced the self help nature of the programme which is an important aspect of sustainability.

We then left for Harare in the late afternoon and throughout the drive to and from Gutu, Samia asked a lot of questions about the organization. She had been impressed by the field programmes and the next day would be spent in the office looking at the administrative issues.

Samia walked me through the next steps which are as follows:

  • She was going to write a report of the assessment in London this week
  • Her board would meet on 29 September to make a decision
  • ZA will be notified of the outcome early October
  • There will be an all expenses paid award ceremony in London in December

She ended by congratulating me for steering the ship through this nose diving economy, and we await to see if we are successful in winning this award.