Leading by Example – Students Celebrate Earth Day in Accra Ghana

Leading by Example – Students Celebrate Earth Day in Accra Ghana

handwashing station
Students using one of the new handwashing stations at the school.

It’s "Our Turn to Lead" is the theme for the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, and that’s just what students are doing in a cluster of four schools in the Greater Accra region of Ghana. Four new School Health Clubs, whose motto is “Live Clean: Feel Good,” are helping celebrate Earth Day with an art exhibition of student drawings showing their view of a good environment. Peer leaders in clubs at the schools, which serve more than 1,600 students are also leading by example – with a life-saving message on proper hygiene and the importance of washing your hands with soap.

WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) interventions in schools are vital to the well-being and education of students. Students who are safe, comfortable and healthy have higher attendance and retention rates and are better able to focus on learning. Recognizing that the Lartebiokorshie schools did not have a properly functioning sanitation system, the Cummins Ghana Community Involvement Team (CIT), Cummins Foundation and Global Communities, partnered together to address the pressing needs. The Lartebiokorshie Cluster of Schools WASH Project is improving the school experience of students and staff by improving the schools’ infrastructure and governance, and demonstrating and establishing positive hygiene behaviors, particularly handwashing. The partnership kicked off with a workshop in October 2014 of community stakeholders including members of the metro area education office, the Parent Teacher Association, the School Management Committee and the School Health Committee. The workshop enabled stakeholders to voice their expectations for the project and identify their various roles within the project’s action plan.

By November, with the support of a student intern from EARTH University in Costa Rica, the project was in full swing with the construction of new toilets, handwashing and drinking water facilities. Students participated in activities that highlighted critical handwashing times and how to properly use the new hygiene facilities. They participated in a quiz and a skit where they demonstrated their knowledge of safe hygiene practices and the winners received prizes.

hygiene education
A peer educator from the School Health Club sharing hygiene information with her classmates.

In just six months, the project is making a difference with the schools and together the partners have:

  • Completed a participatory baseline assessment of hygiene practices.
  • Developed WASH Action Plans with the assistance of the Metro School Health Coordinator.
  • Renovated the sanitation block, with 20 toilets, including a water treatment plant with six storage tanks.
  • Installed 12 handwashing stations.
  • Formed four School Health Clubs and trained peer leaders to reinforce proper sanitation and hygiene with students and community members through games and fun activities.
  • Trained School Management Committees and Parent Teacher Associations in the proper care and maintenance of the sanitation block.
  • Completed a Facility Management Plan and Latrine User Education Manual.

The Earth Day events in all four schools are a celebration of accomplishments so far and the hard work of the students in educating their peers and the broader community.

By the end of the project in June, Global Communities will work with the four Lartebiokorshie schools and all stakeholders to prepare a detailed monthly work plan of continuing behavior-change activities that will be supported by volunteers from Cummins Ghana. Together we will prepare a final report that documents lessons-learned and presents a cost-effective model for replication in additional schools. For more information on Global Communities’ WASH interventions, visit the Global Communities Ghana website.