Enabling Policy Environment for Wash in Schools

The introduction of Free Primary Education (FPE) in 2003 resulted in a rapid increase in the number of children in primary schools, placing severe strain on school infrastructure and facilities which were already inadequate. The school population rose from 5.9 million pupils in 2002 to 7.2 million in 2003, to 8.2 million pupils in 2007. This trend is expected to continue to 10 million in 2012. In 2004, the government committed significant funds, equivalent to KSH 50,000 for every primary school in the country. This was a significant step forward, but unfortunately the funding commitment did not continue beyond 2004-05, partly because resources were diverted to deal with emergencies. Kenya has over 18,000 public primary schools and a large number of non-formal schools offering primary school curriculum. Lacking or poor primary school infrastructure is a major barrier to improving access to primary education in the country.


The Ministry of Education (MoE), in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation (MoPHS) and other partners, developed a National School Health Policy and National School Health Guidelines in 2009. The School Health Policy enables the Government to utilize available resources in an effective and efficient manner towards child health. It provides a coordination mechanism that enhances the roles of the various ministries, institutions and stakeholders. The National School Health Guidelines are aimed at operationalizing the National School Health Policy by providing specific guidelines which ensures that school age children, teachers, support staff and community members access quality and equitable services for improved health. At present, an implementation plan is being developed.

Donor support to WASH in Schools was designed to be allocated on a cost sharing basis with government via the Kenya Education Sector Support Programme (KESSP), which provided a holistic package of support covering, amongst other things, infrastructure including WASH facilities, books and teacher training. UNICEF, along with DFID, World Bank and CIDA, agreed to provide pooled funding to the program. In September 2009, serious misuse of program funds was reported and DFID subsequently announced that it would stop funding the sector via government systems until the risks of fraud had been substantially reduced UNICEF, whose WASH programs had not started, along with the other partners have now also withdrawn from KESSP. It is not clear what percentage of the program is still sustained through government financing.

UNICEF is a key partner within the WASH in Schools sector in Kenya. The Government of Kenya/ UNICEF WASH Program (2008-2013) funded by the Government of the Netherlands includes WASH projects in over 780 schools in 22 (of some 60 original) districts. Unfortunately, this component was delayed following the KESSP concern and in the interim alternative partnership arrangements (including district public health and education offices, NGOs and regional authorities) have been developed to hasten implementation. Other key sector players are DfID, CIDA and CARE Kenya.

Established in 2010, the Sanitation & Hygiene Interagency Coordinating Committee (ICC) of the health sector has constituted a WASH in school Working Group as one of six technical working groups. It is anticipated that this working group will support the relevant ministries in improving coordination and raising the profile of WASH in schools.

Quality and Coverage of WASH in Schools Programming

The critical primary school WASH issues include lack of WASH infrastructure, particularly in poor districts and informal urban settlements (most public schools do not meet the minimum standards); low prioritization of WASH in Schools; poor enforcement and inadequate maintenance (Government efforts have focused on construction of toilet facilities with less focus on changing practices); overcrowded schools; and huge regional discrepancies.

Functional sanitation facilities are mostly pit latrines in rural schools and VIP latrines in urban schools. Current provision and quality of WASH in primary schools remains uncoordinated and of variable quality. Most school latrines are constructed through the efforts of school committees and the local community. External support has been limited, although NGOs, in particular, are active in the sector.

UNICEF remains the most visible partner in the overall programming and implementation of WASH in Schools over the years, particularly in rural areas. UNICEF projects are targeted to benefit the most vulnerable communities, including remote and insecure northern regions where child survival indicators are of higher concern. For each school, the package comprises gender sensitive sanitation facilities, access to safe and adequate water supply, hand washing facilities, showers for girls, and a hygiene promotion component with emphasis on hand washing with soap. The program has also incorporated facilities for children with disabilities.

UNICEF has also supported WASH in Schools in informal urban settlements in Nairobi and Mombasa with at least 30 schools supported over the past 3 years. The Ministry of Education has prescribed designs for school sanitation facilities., which unfortunately have been rejected by most school communities and NGOs UNICEF is currently producing technical designs for use by its partners, recognizing the need for adaptability due to geographical and cultural variations. An Education Management Information System (EMIS) is in place within the Ministry of Education but the quality and reliability of the information currently available is uncertain. Specifically, it does not adequately address WASH in Schools parameters or needs. Therefore, no reliable national data is available on the status of school WASH in Kenya. However, the UNICEF Country Programme Action Plan noted that many schools had more than 100 pupils per latrine as compared to the recommended maximum of 30; and that few schools had access to safe water for drinking and washing hands. The shortage of reliable data complicates planning and monitoring.

The recommended pupil: latrine ratio is 25:1 (girls) and 30:1 (boys). According to the MoED Basic Report on Spatial Analysis of School Mapping Data (Feb 2011), the national pupil to toilet ratio (2007) is indicated as 38:1 and 32:1 for boys and girls in public schools, respectively. These ratios are generally thought to be inacurate. Additionally, there is no reliable information on the condition and usability of the available facilities. A recent Baseline Survey (2010) of the 22 UNICEF WASH Programme districts found that overall, a third of schools have safe water sources in their compounds and had child friendly latrines. Although most of the schools had separate, gender specific latrines, the majority of them did not meet the national pupil to toilet ratio standards for boys or girls.

• Out of the 343 schools sampled in 21 districts, just over a third (37.3%) had safe water sources in the school yard or 200 metres from the school yard.
• 86.9% had separate latrines for girls, boys and school personnel.
• Less than a quarter of the schools met the country standards for either the number of latrines for boys (20.1%) or for girls (19.0%).
• Out of schools that were surveyed to determine whether or not they had child-friendly latrines, 62.4% met the criteria for spacious cubicles, 51.3% for an appropriate aperture and 75.8% met the criteria for privacy.
• Only 32 schools (9.3%) met the minimum hygiene criteria.
• Just over a quarter (27.1%) of schools were found to maintain their latrines correctly.


Organizations Working in Wash in Schools


Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

Care Kenya


Catholic Relief Services