Hygienic behaviour change started from children’s hands

“I have just learned an interesting song about washing hands with soap!” Huyen, a 12 year old student, excitedly shared. “The song reminds me to wash my hands before eating and after going to the toilet. It is very easy to sing!”.

Huyen is among around 300 students in Kim Truy communal primary school who participated in hygienic practical lessons which applies CHAST (Children’s Hygiene and Sanitation Training) approach. These communications activities were conducted by a group of local 16 core facilitators in September 2014. These facilitators are ChildFund supported primary schools’ teachers, healthcare and Youth Union staff in Kim Boi district, Hoa Binh.

In photo: Huyen and her classmate learning about six steps of washing hands with soap from Hieu and Lan Anh, two facilitators.

Before the lessons, the core facilitators had participated in a five day training course on CHAST, the new approach for promoting good hygiene among children. CHAST encourages children to actively participate in open discussions and to share their experiences and ideas with their peers. In the CHAST exercises and games, children are encouraged to work independently in pairs or in small groups, and then to present their thoughts and findings to the larger group. By giving children practical lessons to improve their hygiene, communications applying CHAST approach aims to help children build up good practices sustainably and influence their families and communities.

During the training, the local facilitators learnt a series of sessions including exercises and educational games on hygiene and sanitation issues, disease transmission prevention and good and bad hygiene practices to deliver to children fundamental information in a fun and memorable way.

These core facilitators then formed into eight groups to practise the CHAST sessions in the classes. Each was in charge of conducting pilot communications sessions for first to fifth graders including activities such as learning the six steps of washing hands with soap, playing picture puzzles on good and bad practices or singing the “Washing hands with soap” song.

“The part that I like the most is introducing six steps of washing hands with soap to 5th grade children. They are old enough to be aware of keeping hands clean, but it is important for them to know the right way to wash their hands to ensure personal hygiene”, shared Hieu, a Cuoi Ha B primary school teacher.

In photo: A group of 4th grade students drawing types of disease transmission while a younger 1st grade student is learning to identify good and bad practices through pictures.

“CHAST is a good child-to-child approach to help children learn more about personal hygiene and sanitation, especially for children aged from five to 12. By playing and learning at the same time, children also can develop their language and analysing abilities”, said Que Anh, Vice Director of the Research Centre for Family Health and Community Development (CEFACOM) - CHAST principal trainer.

After the training course, all nine ChildFund-supported primary schools in Kim Boi would integrate the hygiene and sanitation communications lessons applying CHAST approach into their annual curricula. Over the past few months, the teachers have received training on the approach from the core facilitator groups and conducted two communications sessions per week for their students. As planned, in December 2014, ChildFund will hold a review workshop in order to evaluate the approach application.

Improving water supply and environmental sanitation conditions and promoting personal hygienic practice is listed among the focuses of ChildFund’s Building Strong and Resilient Communities program. ChildFund will continue to execute projects that aim to improve the community’s awareness about clean water, personal hygiene and environmental sanitation through behaviour change communication activities.

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