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Schools got it right in Sultan Kudarat!

WaSh in Schools (WINS) is a national policy of the Department of Education aimed at educating and instilling proper WaSH behaviors in students to create a far-reaching impact in children’s health and performance in school. This program have lots of success stories all over the country and have brought significant improvements in schools that are actively supporting and implementing it.

The success of WINS also depends largely from the collective support of the school management, the barangay officials and the parents. In the municipalities of Lebak and Kalamansig in Sultan Kudarat, WINS is having a headway in the lives of children in inculcating positive WaSH behavior.

WINS in Lebak

Bgy. Salangsang in the municipality of Lebak is a far flung barangay populated by majority of Manobo and Tiruray people. These are indigenous people who are basically highland dwellers, relatively nomadic in culture and lives mostly on the bounty of the forest. There is high illiteracy rate among the group, very few are educated and largely subsistent farmers. The place is about 25 kilometers away from the town proper and local transportation is difficult. It’s usual to see people riding horses just to reach the town as road condition is hard and a times dangerous for motor vehicle. Livelihood is mainly agricultural; coffee, corn and wild honey. Manobo and Tiruray children attend the only elementary school in the barangay. Previously, interaction among children depends on whether one is “Christian” – mostly Ilonggo or Ilokano, and “Tribu” – Manobos or Tirurays. The tribu do not usually mingle with the other group, not so much on ethnic
discrimination, but more of their own choice. Based on the way of life that they’ve been used to, they very seldom take a bath, or wash their whole bodies, or brush their teeth, much less use soap and water to wash their hands. According to the teachers, the tribu children felt that there is something different with them.

With the introduction of the WaSH in Schools program, the students were introduced to the key messages and behaviors in WaSH: the use of toilets for defecation, hand washing with soap and water during critical times, tooth brushing using fluoride toothpaste, daily bathing, drinking water from safe sources, and general cleanliness of the surroundings. The school management instituted WaSH teams in schools in every grade. The WaSH teams lead and guide their “wards” in daily WaSH activities such as handwashing and tooth brushing. They serve as mentors and guides. The school also instituted signal/warning system so that the students are guided whenever they heard it. The president of the Supreme Pupil Government does this warning- three short blasts means students to get ready for handwashing, one long blast after 5 minutes means they go out and wash their hands in preparation for lunch. Every students is required to brush their teeth after lunch. At first, they were taught and guided how to do this, then eventually becomes the norm in school.

As narrated by a Manobo teacher, it is common behavior in their tribe to defecate just about anywhere, tooth brushing is done by using crushed guava twig till it softens, and this is done usually only when
something was stuck between teeth. Daily bathing or face washing is not a norm, therefore, Manobos or Tirurays smells. With the introduction of WINS, IP children were taught improved WaSH behaviors, provided with initial supplies and now happily mingles with other children. There is no more unseen divide among the children as the “difference” was now eradicated. As a result, all children are now happier, healthier, well-groomed and more social. These same children brings change at home as they become WaSH advocates in their own families. Tooth brushing, handwashing, daily bathing and general cleanliness of the surroundings became the new norm.

The School management, understanding that supplies need to be replenished, started resource mobilization for sustained WaSH supplies and facilities. They solicited support for OFW friends, demanded support from their own Barangay and municipal government and from local businesses. The Barangay LGU provided improved water source for the schools, the municipal LGU constructed additional toilets and repair of water facilities, and other donors provided WaSH supplies such as soap, toothbrushes and tooth paste. At some point, the UNICEF, through the A Single Drop for Safe Water, provided Php 30,000.00 for materials for the improvement of their WaSH facilities. The parents and community provided labor as their equity counterpart.

The whole community, thru the WINS, was transformed into an empowered, motivated WaSH advocates. The BLGU, recognizing that promotion of health should be primary service, education as the only way to help them improve their lives, and also the need to support the school so that they attain the G2 status, is more than motivated to provide assistance. Now, the school have functional WaSH
facilities, have water available and a cleaner and more organized surroundings. The children are excited to go to school and discrimination among “Christians” and “Tribu” is no longer an issue among students.

WINS in Kalamansig

Kalamansig is another coastal and mountainous municipality in Sultan Kudarat, adjacent to Lebak. It also has high population of the Manobo and Tiruray. It’s very similar to Lebak in terms of livelihood, terrain and people groups.

When WINS was introduced to the LGU, the Limulan Elementary School was among those who were empowered to improve WaSH in their school. The principal, heartened by the support received from UNICEF through ASDSW was inspired to implement the program. At first, the children were coached, discipline was instilled, and before long, improved WaSH behavior took root. This is reinforced by a consistent messaging and practice through their daily WaSH activities, guided by the 3-star approach.

By understanding the interaction that should be between schools and local government units and the parents, the principal linked up and demanded support from the barangay and the municipal LGU. The parents were also engaged and enjoined to support the program.

The principal knows that water supply is crucial to changing the WaSH behavior of students. Through
strengthened coordination and networking, the Barangay LGU provided water supply by providing distribution pipes connecting the school to the existing Barangay water system. They now have functional toilets. Some donors also come to support the program especially in providing replenishment of WaSH supplies. Global handwashing celebrations are now observed by other schools, not just in Limulan ES. As noted by the principals, proper WaSH behaviors such as handwashing and tooth brushing are now part of children’s behavior, a new norm, even the parents are also educated on WaSH because of the children.

End note:

Both these schools realize that collaboration is key to successful and impactful implementation of the WINS program- the government, the community and the school (students and teachers). They may face challenges along the way, but both commits to sustain the program. They have already something to show for success, children and parents are now informed WaSH advocates, so there’s no other way but forward… and ONWARD.

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