October 9, 2018

Hand Wash Behaviour Change in School-Aged Children

Written by SPATAP

Students of Brilliant Star School in line to use the tap

Students of Brilliant Star School, Henderson, Honiara, Solomon Islands. Photos by Stuart Mason. All authority to use images granted.

Over the last few years, the awareness of a Hand Wash behaviour change has been a vital discussion topic. The ‘Hand-Wash Habit’ is critical to building healthy, prosperous communities.

Health literally starts with the hands being clean for day to day activities. To maintain this state of cleanliness, three essential elements are required.

  1. A Functional TAP – Tap to be clean, easily operated, installed, and free from malfunction
  2. Running water 
  3. Soap – in a suitable ‘soap caddy’, to allow the soap to air dry naturally and free from contaminants.

Running water from the tap is required to wash away soap and contaminants. With these elements, effective hand wash habits are facilitated.

To form any habit, repetition is required and in water-scarce schools with no permanent plumbing infrastructure, the challenge is even more difficult. One could ask the question; “How could a teacher with a class of 30 students maintain regular hand hygiene without these elements available?”

The task becomes almost impossible and is often overlooked. This oversight results in sickness and diseases spreading through the community. Culturally, women and girls are the primary family caregivers. In developing countries, water cartage is usually seen as a female responsibility, and in the case of students, this means less time for formal education.

Female student using the SPATAP

Students of Brilliant Star School, Henderson, Honiara, Solomon Islands. Photos by Stuart Mason. All authority to use images granted.

The ‘SPATAP’ Hand Wash System

During Global Handwashing Day last year, the “SPATAP SYSTEM” was introduced to water scarce schools in the Solomon Islands and Kenya.

The SPATAP is a portable silicone tap, instantly transforming almost any bottle into a flow controllable tap and could easily be installed and maintained by a 5-year-old child.

Last year, a SPATAP System was installed in the Brilliant Star School, Henderson – Honiara – Solomon Islands. The results have amazed far beyond the expectations of the SPATAP team, Headmasters, Teachers and most importantly, the Students.

A classroom ‘Roster System’ was developed, supplying one SPATAP per class and keeping the students accountable for the upkeep. This system perpetuated hand-wash habit formation. As new students learned hand wash habits from their peers by example, hand wash behavior became normalized in the school.

The students, under their own volition, with zero input by the SPATAP team, the Headmaster or teachers, became so conscious of the benefits of water, sanitation, and hygiene. They formed an action group to build shelters for their SPATAP with dedicated drainage systems.

Headmaster next to big 19L bottle outside toilet & SPATAP 2000+ handwashes

Headmaster next to big 19L bottle outside toilet & SPATAP 2000+ handwashes. Photos by Stuart Mason. All authority to use images granted.

Michael Oritaimae, Principal, of the Brilliant Star School, Henderson – Honiara – Solomon Islands stated:

“It actually came from them. It’s a state of realization and it comes from reading their own reality. They decided to do it as a SPATAP project. They planned the project, appointed their own coordinators and they did it all by themselves. We had lessons initially about harmful microorganisms and they became so conscious.  I think the children love what they are doing”

This is self-empowerment in action by taking ownership of their own hygiene and health. The portability of the SPATAP makes it immediately available to schools and communities without plumbing. Other uses for SPATAP include food washing, cleansing children, cleansing wounds, and using water-on-tap.

Students of Brilliant Star School in line to use the tap

Students of Brilliant Star School, Henderson, Honiara, Solomon Islands. Photos by Stuart Mason. All authority to use images granted.

Personal hygiene at school is important, as it influence the kids’ parents and community, resulting in:

  • Fewer absences from school, which leads to better learning outcomes
  • A safer working environment for both teachers and students
  • Less time spent collecting water, thus more time for formal education due to the water saving nature of SPATAP. (e.g. 19 litres of water can dispense over 2000 hand-washes)
  • Less working hours lost due to easily preventable communicable diseases. This in turn, will raise productivity, employment, and the overall economy
  • Less expenditure on medicines and medical services

To see the SPATAP 3 DAYS to behaviour change program in action, please watch the video: