In 2013 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Asia and Pacific regional office released findings disclosing a great disparity in the access to water and sanitation between the East Asian and Pacific region and the rest of the world. As such UNICEF partnered with the Fijian Ministries of Education and Health, the Fijian Teachers Association (FTA), and Access to Quality Education Program to pilot the Three Star Approach WASH in Schools (WinS) program in 15 schools across Fiji in 2014. The Three Star Approach is a stepwise initiative that promotes simple, inexpensive solutions to promote hand washing and ensure student access to drinking water and gender-separated sanitation. In the Three Star Approach schools are assessed and gradually improve towards three stars/international standards as they identify obstacles and areas of improvement and address them. Fiji’s strategy includes education, empowerment and monitoring to identify and rectify problems. For monitoring, they have incorporated mobile devices to complete surveys and collect relevant data. There is currently no national policy or budget for WinS; however, the outcomes of the pilot are expected to be published in late 2015 and shall be used by Ministry of Education (MoE) to develop a national plan for WinS.
While Fiji has a national standard for WASH in Schools and has guides and toolkits to support WASH, the educational tools are utilized nationally in target areas. Data from MoE suggests that 100% of schools have access to sanitation facilities (improved or unimproved); however, there is no data to support whether they are meeting the national standard of one latrine for every 20 girls up to 200 girls, an additional latrine/closet for up to 300 girls and one additional latrine/closet for every 33 girls over 300. For boys the requirement is one closet for every 33 boys or part of 33 boys up to 200 boys, and an additional closet for every 50 boys or part of 50 boys over the number of 200 boys. 1 urinal per 50 boys. MoE data also reflects that 77% of schools have access to an improved water source at some point during the year. The national standard for provision of water is a minimum of one safe drinking water point and 1 liter of water per pupil per day. It is not possible to assess if the standard is being met. In addition, it is not possible to assess if the government standard for one hand washing point with tap and soap per 50 students or 20 staff was also unverifiable.
More recent (2013) government records indicate that 75% of schools in Fiji have access to water and sanitation; however, there is evidence suggesting that provisions are lower. Steady progress towards international standards has been made by the Three Star Approach pilot sites. Schools have shown notable improvements in student behavior and provisions for hand washing. The program, which shall be implemented nationally, relies heavenly upon teachers, principals, the community and students to facilitate change. Perhaps it’s the component of ownership and empowerment that has help make the program successful thus far. WinS is also supported by organizations such as Live and Learn Environmental Education, Project Heaven, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Rotary Water for Life, and International Water Center. Together they have provided a range of support to WASH ranging from provision of water and sanitation to educational resources such as flash cards, resource guide and posters.