As Monday this week was the United Nations International Day of Education, this article describes the issue of school attendance in sub-Saharan Africa and how it is intrinsically linked with water and sanitation.
Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the lowest rates of school attendance across the globe with only 56.92% of students reaching the end of primary school and 35.58% of the students currently enrolling in secondary school. As education is essential to achieve long-term economic growth and to reduce poverty which is affecting so many African communities, it is key to improve the number of children remaining in school.
Whilst there are many reasons for low attendance rates and situations vary across different regions, there are some major barriers to education which are seen across the continent. These include health, transport, energy, water, and sanitation.
There are various ways in which water and sanitation are linked to education across sub-Saharan Africa:
- The collection of water across long distances when there are no convenient water sources takes up valuable school time each day for many children.
- Across our projects we have found that women and girls are often solely responsible for household water collection and domestic household chores meaning they do not have as much time to attend school as boys. It has also been estimated that 10% of girls in Africa do not attend school when they are menstruating and many drop out altogether once they reach puberty due to a lack of adequate sanitation facilities. Therefore, from a young age poor water and sanitation facilities cause a gender equality gap and influence fewer girls to attend school.
- Collection from unsafe water sources also increases school absence through severe water-borne diseases and outbreaks of diarrheal disease. Without a convenient water source for handwashing, additional diseases also spread within communities and cause can school closures.
At CO2balance we understand these issues and our Safe Water projects focus on providing reliable, easily accessible, and safe sources of water to communities to help keep children in school as long as possible. Promoting safe WASH practices throughout our projects is also key and helps in keeping the incidence of disease low.
In addition to our Safe Water Projects, we also run various CSR projects which are able to help in many of the areas mentioned:
- In Sierra Leone we conducted a project which involved the distribution of pedal-operated handwashing stations and soap alongside our boreholes to all 132 communities involved in our Safe Water project. This project also included vital information on how to use the stations and why it is important.
- In Kole District of Northern Uganda, with support and funding from MediaCom, we conducted a project aimed to improve menstrual sanitation issues in a primary school of over 910 pupils. The project involved creating a Senior Female Teacher position who acts as a safe point of contact to provide support and counsel for the girls, training on good menstrual hygiene practices and use of sanitary towels, and the distribution of reusable sanitary towels to girls aged between 13-17.
If you are interested in funding a sustainable sanitation CSR project with us, please email us at email@example.com or visit our website for further information.