Empowering Children to making a difference in WASH facilities in schools

Saturday 9 April 2016

”Being a member of the NCTF has built my confidence to raise my voice to claim my rights better, “answered Babul Islam, a 10th grade student in Savar and a member of the National Children’s Task Force (NCTF), when asked about what value the Save the Children project “ICT and Innovative Partnerships” has brought to his life. The project aims to strengthen the accountability structure of the schools, where school authorities are for the first time taking the initiative to respond to the needs and rights of children, based on data received through the ICT platform, to improve the water sanitation and hygiene management among the 30 secondary high schools in Savar.

It is widely recognized that the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities in many schools in Bangladesh are very poor. Children in some schools may not even have toilets and washrooms – or have limited access. In many cases, these facilities are not regularly maintained, cleaned, and often suffer from serious disrepair (broken locks, no lighting). Children may also lack access to clean drinking water at school, or if it is available, drinking water equipment is unhealthy. This grim reality seriously hinders children’s ability to attend to school, learn and benefit from their school environment. It has a particularly negative impact on girls due to their different biological set-up and needs.

Against this backdrop, the Policy, Rights and Governance (PRG) sector designed and introduced an ICT based application to monitor WASH facilities and services in selected schools in Savar. The app allows children to collect and send real-time, gender disaggregated data twice a month to the relevant school authorities. This bridges the accountability gap: children can now share their concerns and needs with teachers and School Management Committee to bring about responsiveness and accountability in their schools.

Evidence shows that school authorities now find making decisions about managing their school easier because of the project! Equally, children have learned how to raise their voice and take action collectively: writing reports, meeting with senior authorities and claiming their rights. Children feel more confident and a greater sense of empowerment. The most concrete changes speak for themselves.

“The ICT based monitoring application has supported me to track the problem, identify the priority and follow up systematically based on the real time data. The application can be further used to monitor other challenges children are facing like to track the drop out from school, eve teasing and even child marriage,” shared by the headmaster of Kthgora high school during a recent discussion with the Interim Country Director, William Lynch, and PRG Director, Hagar Russ, of Save the Children on a field visit 24th March 2016.