Washing their Way to a Healthier Future in Nigeria

21 Mar 2012
Youth support WOFAN's efforts to renovate and upgrade water systems in the schools and clinics in Sokoto state, Nigeria.

Youth support WOFAN’s efforts to renovate and upgrade water systems in the schools and clinics in Sokoto state, Nigeria.

Do high quality basic education and improved hygiene practices go hand in hand? The Northern Education Initiative (NEI) says yes, and has used this premise to drive the project’s recent efforts.

NEI, a USAID-funded project that helps local and state agencies in Bauchi and Sokoto states in northern Nigeria deliver quality basic education services and meet the needs of orphans and vulnerable children, has begun teaching about the importance of hand washing in schools and girls’ centers. NEI is undertaking this work in collaboration with Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN), the State Universal Basic Education Board and the Ministries of Women Affairs in Bauchi and Sokoto.

Underscoring the critical connection between safe water and education, Alhaji Umar Lamido Sarkin Gabas, a member of local government from the region, said, “The water project brought in and supported by NEI in collaboration with WOFAN and USAID is something we will never forget. It will indeed improve enrollment […]where lack of water is a key factor effecting poor enrollment in the school.”

A number of related interventions were conducted as part of the NEI hand washing effort.

Using the Kids Forum – a platform that provides psychosocial support to children – over 9,500 children between ages eight and 12 and drawn from the 200 demonstration schools in Bauchi and Sokoto states were taught the importance of washing their hands with soap and water after using the toilet and when their hands are dirty, before preparing food, before eating and after handling poultry.

Through the Adolescent Girls Program – a forum that teach literacy, numeracy, critical life skills and health competencies for out-of-school adolescent girls – more than 600 girls between the ages of 13-17 were taught the importance of hand washing, water safety and purification.

In addition, WOFAN is assisting NEI to supply water to NEI demonstration schools across the two states. WOFAN has assisted with the building of clean wells at 24 schools, supplied five water tanks and provided bore holes with hand washing and toilet facilities.

Alhaji Shehi Shagi, former President of Nigeria, summed up the community’s feelings toward this NEI endeavor. “I’m very happy with the project put in by USAID/WOFAN and NEI,” he exclaimed. “This will help in improving the hygiene practices among the pupils in the school. We thank NEI for supporting education in [northern Nigeria].”

View more photos of the water facilities renovations in Nigeria.