Liberia: US Exchange Alumni Launch WASH Campaign for Equitable Education with Schools

The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Campaign for Equitable Education and WASH in Schools Improvement Plan was launched in Monrovia under the auspices of the Girl Friendly WASH in Schools Project Advocacy .

Co-hosted by the Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI), the project is the brainchild of two U.S. exchange alumni, Facia Harris and Hawa Wilson, funded by the Department of Education’s 2021 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund. US state.

Previewing the project at the launch at the Bella Casa Hotel in Monrovia on Friday, July 29, 2022, Hawa Wilson, 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow, said the initiative aims to improve the quality of the learning environment for students, especially women in improving access to accepted WASH facilities.

“It directly seeks to improve the quality of the learning environment for all students, especially girls, by encouraging schools to develop and implement policies and practices that always allow them to have clean and assessable toilets, especially for girls,” she said.

Ms. Wilson said ten schools in Montserrado and Margibi Counties are participating in the 2021 United States Exchange Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund-funded project. There are 3 private schools – Amos T. Taybior Institute, New Destiny School and Rev. Mark H. Parker School: and 7 public schools – Peace Island Community School, Dixville Public School, Upper Caldwell Public School, Soul Clinic Public School, Harbel Multilateral School, Duazon Public School and Gibraltar Public School.

“The Action for Advocacy Action on Girls-Friendly WASH in school project is intended to work adequately with schools in Montserrado and Margibi counties. Initially, we did an assessment of 30 schools and of the 30 schools, 10 high schools were selected,” Ms. Wilson said.

In a statement at the launch, U.S. Embassy Monrovia Public Affairs Officer Sean Boda said the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector is a priority of the partnership between the United States government and the Liberian government.

Boda revealed that around sixty million dollars are spent on the water, sanitation and hygiene sector alone.

“Our biggest investment is in health, that’s where we’ve invested the most money through USAID. So this Alumni Engagement Fund-supported launch is just one of many ways the U.S. government supports WASH projects in Liberia,” the U.S. diplomat said.

According to Boda, the 2021 United States Exchange Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund-funded WASH for Equitable Education campaign will directly benefit students by improving the quality of the learning environment, especially for female students.

“This project is sustainable because it partners with selected schools to help institutionalize policies and practices in their schools,” he said.

The US Embassy Public Affairs Officer therefore urged school administrators, students and parents of the ten selected schools to take advantage of the project. “So this is a small investment of funds, but with the involvement of the PTA, school administrators, students and community activists, this project will be sustained,” Boda added.

Outlining the 2021 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund, Boda said it intends to support alumni initiatives that promote lasting and impactful public service projects and share the values ​​of innovative solutions to global problems.

“Since 2011, the State Department has awarded more than 400 such grants, of which this is one of them,” he added.

Officially launching the project, the Director of Technical Services at the National WASH Commission, Prince Kreplah, revealed that enrollment of female students in schools was hampered due to lack of adequate access to water, sanitation and sanitation facilities.

“WASH has played a very serious role in school enrolment, without adequate access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, school enrollment could be compromised as hundreds of school children will fall ill due to the lack of WASH facilities,” Director Kreplah said.

Director Kreplah assured PAYOWI and advocacy on the Girl Friendly WASH in Schools project of the Commission’s willingness to support the project.

“The WASH Commission will work with you on this project because national statistics indicate that approximately 67-76% of our country has access to basic water services, while only 15% has access to basic sanitation facilities, while that 5% practice good hygiene, so what these statistics tell us as a country is that we need to work hard to mitigate these challenges,” he said.

Speaking via zoom from Kenya, a Liberian WASH expert, Magdalene Matthews, said only fifty percent of schools in Liberia had safe drinking water, while sanitation and hygiene remained a huge challenge.

“According to the report of the WHO and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program on WASH in Schools, only 50 percent of schools in Liberia have safe drinking water,” said Ms. Matthew.

She added: “When we talk about WASH in schools, we are talking about three cardinal areas, we are talking about drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.

So you can’t just say we have WASH at school when you only have clean water or working toilets, you need to make sure you have water, sanitation and of hygiene”.

Testifying to the impact of the project on his school, the headmaster of Gibraltar Public School on Bushrod Island, Foday Kawah, lamented that female students at the school usually miss classes during their periods due to lack of sanitary napkins.

“It used to get to a point where some of my female students would come up to me and say, Mr. Kawah, I’m sick, and I would ask them if I should send medicine, but they’ll say no, sickness is a period of menstruation. “.

“So some of them used to go home for three to five days, so it became a big challenge, but when we started working with Paramount Young Women Initiative, based on the education provided, we were made to understand that sometimes we have to buy sanitary napkins and keep them in the office and have clean toilets and water that the girls can access, especially when they are on their periods,” a- he explained