The Government of Zambia through the Ministry of Education (MoE) has been pursuing collective action to improve infrastructure. The Government’s aspirations of Education and Millennium Development Goal (MDG) were incorporated in the vision 2030, which was operationalized through the fifth and the current Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP). The Ministry of Education Policy on Educating Our Future (EOF) recognizes the fact that good health and nutrition is an essential pre-requisite for effective learning. The School Health Nutrition (SHN) policy is an elaboration of the chapter on educational areas of special concern contained in the Ministries’ policy on School personal and environment health. The general objective of SHN policy is to improve and provide equitable services in learning institutions, through integrated health and nutrition interventions, in collaboration with the community and other partners.
The Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH) in 2007 launched the National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (2006-2015). Later the Sanitation and Hygiene Component was developed in order to assist the MDG of halving the number of people without access to adequate sanitation by 2015, and to achieve universal sanitation coverage by 2030, as is the goal set in Zambia’s Vision 2030 (GRZ, 2009). These documents have sections that specifically address school sanitation and hygiene promotion.
The Public Health (Drainage and Latrine) Regulations makes it mandatory for any owner or occupier of schools to provide proper and sufficient latrine accommodation for girls and boys. The Ministry of Education Standards, Assessment and Evaluation Guidelines from 2001 state that 8 hand basins should be provided for the first 100 pupils and 3 hand basins for the next 50 pupils (GRZ, 2009).
These guidelines are formulated to help all implementers to understand and use the SHN strategies in line with SHN policy. Many actors involved in school WASH currently do not adhere to MoE standards and regulations.
The government of Zambia declared July as school health month in order to set a springboard for enhanced sensitization on health and nutrition in schools. The districts countrywide have formed multi-sectoral teams that implement school health month activities, monitor progress, capture lessons, challenges and suggest possible solutions.
The MoE 2010 infrastructure operational plan has 2,019 new classroom blocks to accommodate 90,540 and only 297 double VIP latrines. This plan also includes 369 teachers’ houses and 361 single latrines. The Department of Infrastructure Development have established various designs that range from water closets (including ablution blocks) to VIP latrines for school toilets that range from $5,000 to $187,500.
UNICEF is one of Zambia’s key strategic partners in school WASH programs. The Zambia UNICEF country office is working in partnership with MoE and MLGH to improve water and sanitation in 500 schools in 20 districts. The activities include the provision of new or improved water points at schools, provision of child friendly and gender sensitive sanitation facilities, promotion of hygienic practices and behaviors, improved Operation and Maintenance (O&M), support for improved micro-environment at the schools, and establishing broad inter-sectoral partnerships so as to ensure life skills development of school children.
Other actors involved in WASH in Schools include USAID, Plan international, GTZ,DANIDA, MLGH and Ministry of Water and energy development. All the above mentioned actors are contributing to development of sanitary facilities and working towards standardization of WASH in schools through the Task force on school WASH coordinated by MoE.
The Government’s Educational Statistical Bulletin 2004 indicates that more than 25% of basic schools do not have access to safe water supply (borehole-piped, borehole-pump, piped water and protected well), and of the 9,564 sanitary facilities (flush toilets and latrines) in these schools, 87.5% consist of pit latrines and the rest are flush toilets. Pit latrines range from high quality to makeshift latrines consisting of stick and mud floors over pits of uncertain depth with flimsy enclosures made of sticks and grass and brick enclosures reinforced with concrete slabs over the pits, but lack ventilation and deep foundations to the bottom of the pit. There is almost an equal number of sanitary facilities for boys and for girls. The ratio of pupils per toilet is generally high, reaching 90 pupils per toilet in some of the schools, way beyond the MoE standards of 1:40 for boys and 1:25 for girls. Hand washing facilities are few even in schools that have been built recently (USAID 2010). Currently MoE construction plans have no sanitary facilities included, MoE will have to revisit the same schools and add this component at a later stage. The general water and sanitation situation in school do not meet the Public Health Regulations, Requirements for School toilets.