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This question always remains, while implementing WASH in Schools.
The one and only obligation of Government is the coverage and this obligation is considered to be met up, once the provisions for the WASH facilities are just existed in the Schools.
In the context of proper WASH in Schools, the most neglected / least bothered issues are as follows:
(i) Proper Operation & Maintenance (O&M;) of the WASH facilities.
(ii) Ensuring involvement of School Management Committee through active community / Parents - Teachers Association.
(ii) Habit formation for WASH activities & regular practice of the same.
(iii) Build up "Take to Home & Community to disseminate" approaches among the students.
(iv) Monitoring & Evaluation of bottlenecks and location / region specific solution approaches.
(v) Child friendliness and capacity building efforts.
With regard to the above said issues, there is the utmost need to formulate appropriate policy and implementation approach to make WASH in School more effective.
Nripendra Kumar Sarma
Guwahati, Assam, India
I agree with Sumita Ganguly’s statement, especially as she hits the nail on the head in reference to infrastructure development priorities such as roads, bridges, culverts, etc. She also makes a good point by highlighting that local governments shy away from making demands and wait their turn to receive funds versus proactively seeking funds for improving school infrastructure. Where my organization works, this is all true in Haiti and in the Dominican Republic. Especially in Haiti where the government’s first priority is to address dysfunctional or nonexistent funding due to recent weather-related disasters, the local government may recognize WASH as a priority but when it comes to implementation, “urgent” or more visible needs are to deal with the fact that most citizens still don’t have a proper home, their businesses are still in ruin, roads impassable, etc. When the national government can turn its attention to schools in need, a first priority may be to ensure that the school’s building is in place, that the students have desks, books, and the teachers are paid and showing up everyday. Thus, WASH priorities falls to the bottom of the list.
In addition to considering if local governments will be able to meet policy obligations, this depends on where the communities are located. Looking at the Dominican Republic, my organization works with marginalized communities—Haitian refugees that are displaced from the DR by 1 or 2 generations to work as laborers in privately owned sugarcane fields. These refugee communities develop their own slums/neighborhoods known as bateys—and the local nor national government considers these communities to be proper citizens of the country, and will turn a blind eye to their needs. If the government does not even consider these communities to be country residents, that in itself poses a difficult challenge for external donors or WASH implementing organizations to work alongside the local government and ultimately, for local governments to ever be able to meet policy obligations.
Governments are in power in order to stay in power. Their first mandate is to themselves and secondly to those who can keep them there. Those who live in extreme poverty live on the edge of survival. Their voice is not heard at levels that create policy. They are not invited to the table. The key to creating adequate policy that demands action is to create strong local governments that can put pressure on provincial and national legislators. Where democracy is in place there is a chance that over time the needs of the poor may be met. Education for all and to the highest extent possible remains the only solution.
I agree with Sumita Ganguly's argumentation. Where in the world do local governments have the power, the money and the capacity to implement School construction programmes that include decent toilets for girls, boys and teachers? After having worked on advocacy and communication at IRC for nearly 30 years I find it a scandal that we have not been able to shake governments into action for well-maintained sanitary faciliies at all schools in the developing world.
Posted for: Sumita Ganguly, Ex-national coordinator Sanitation & Hygiene, WES Section, UNICEF India
The role of NGOs and external funding agencies is paramount. On the one hand resource requirement by way of hard funds is a big issue; Funding from external funding agencies are usually matched with funding from local governments under mutually agreed but rigorous conditions for definite periods. Once the external fund flow ceases the activities slacken (often less staff, inadequate supervision, weak monitoring) and the inevitable decline starts. Country experiences show that a variety of collaborations between governments and either NGOs (both national and local) or external funding agencies, or private sector generates a pool of not only funds but also creates a whole bank of advanced skills, tried and tested methods, innovations and good ideas towards sustainable solutions. This type of resource bank is invaluable for taking projects to scale and institutionalizing the key processes in the larger implementation framework.
One report from Peter van Maanen (UNICEF) states that globally the annual new coverage capital costs for sanitation is estimated to be around $14 billion. The previous WHO estimate was 9.5 billion (Hutton and Haller 2004). This highlights the need for local governments to not just generate and use resources judiciously but to also take steps that are strategic in nature e.g. forge partnerships with other sectors such as education and health so that the WASH in schools targets are selectively owned by these sectors. One should not only limit to these two sectors. Other government departments such as Environment ministry, Science and Technology, Cottage and Small Industries, Culture, Communication have roles to play in evolving appropriate technologies, teaching-learning materials, local child-friendly designs and fabrication and communication techniques that are popular among communities and are appropriate to the local culture.
Local governments look for handholding and interpretation of policies for implementation. This means training and skill building of a workforce spanning a layered implementation hierarchy from management to hands on functions such as quality toilet installations, inter-personal communication etc.; in addition there are other tasks such as development of manuals, handbooks, setting up or strengthening monitoring systems, creating provisions for independent reviews and evaluations and documentations. Few countries would have the capacity to do all of these in an efficient and effective manner all by themselves. Governments look for flashy gains that reflect well their ‘achievement’; Policies that take long to fructify and that too in terms of gain in children’s school days, lesser absenteeism, improvement in girls’ attendance, improved learning curve, reduction in diarrhea, better privacy, security etc. lie in the category of ‘hard to measure’ and therefore hard to tom-tom. “Only 5% of students are washing hands with soap, even when facilities are available,” said Murat Sahin citing UNICEF statistics. Consequently the inclination is to shy away and resort to tokenism. Policy obligations remain a distant goal.
Posted for: V. Kurian Baby, SPO, IRC
Please do not judge before the hearing is over………….
The next and most important question is whether an empowered local government mandated with responsibilities on the principle of subsidiarity would be able to generate adequate internal resources to meet its policy obligations?
The answer is obvious: Yes.
Let me be permitted to use the word ‘mobilize instead of generate’ because governments at all levels including in developed countries are mobilizing and not generating to discharge their obligations - through a combination of taxes, revenue, borrowing or deficit financing.
I would also prefer to substitute local government to Local Self Government (LSG) meaning constitutionally mandated democratically elected governments with powers of self-determination on the subjects devolved. In a well- balanced fiscal governance structure integrated with a normative financial devolution process, the local governments would be able to mobilize the needed resources through taxes, cost recovery and financial devolution – fiscal transfers not as a doll but as part of a legitimate fiscal federalism.
To cite a live example, there are 3500 LSGI centric community managed rural water supply and sanitation schemes in Kerala State of India function for more than a decade. About a third of the budget resources in the State are devolved to the LSGs through a normative process determined by independent State Finance Commission with a significant un-tied component. LSGs are spending a 10-12% of their annual budget on an average of wash service delivery.
There are similar examples globally. Any argument against the capacity of local governments is like passing a judgement before the hearing is over. Let us take the process of decentralization further through a deepening process to achieve a better democratic and just world.
WASH in schools failed due to so many reasons that exist at the field level. Some the reasons are;
1. Introduction of irrelevant methodologies
2. Short-term interest of the implementing agencies
3. Poorly designed WASH programs
4. No or poor response of the government agencies
5. Existence of other critical issues in developing countries on school level
Posted for: Sumita Ganguly, Ex-national coordinator Sanitation & Hygiene, WES Section, UNICEF India
More than half of the 2.5 billion people without improved sanitation live in China and India. The MDG for sanitation is clearly not on track and it looks ominous when one looks at the numbers of people who are either compelled to or choose open defecation as a daily practice e.g. India 626 million, Indonesia 63 million, China 14 million (Global sanitation trends 1990-2010, Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation – 2012 Update, UNICEF, WHO)
WASH in schools is the best way to reach children directly with the services of safe drinking water, clean toilets and demonstrations of good hygiene practices. One can argue that access to these is a child’s right and the state has an obligation to fulfill this right either by providing the facilities or by encouraging, facilitating local communities, local governments to include this in their long list of planned development tasks, or/and partnering with external agencies for resources and funding.
Reports suggest that globally school based drinking water coverage has increased to around 70 percent and school sanitation to 67 percent (UNICEF, 2010). But the unsettling fact is that most national governments are counting mere numbers (drinking water points and toilet units) that are reported by their own machinery which do not have the ability to report progress in terms of good O&M;of facilities and their actual usage; nor is there any reliable mechanism of capturing the knowledge gained and hygiene practiced by the children and promoted by the teachers.
Local governments are invariably struggling with infrastructure development priorities like construction of roads, bridges, culverts, and making provisions for drinking water and drainage, housing, employment etc. Resources are distributed to these areas which are seen as “immediate” and are also amply visible so that they catch the attention of people and help them to carry on with their lives and livelihood and in the process gain political mileage. Education especially running of primary schools and health centres are relatively less important and get pushed to the background. Quite often seen as the responsibility of national governments, local governments shy away from making demands and wait their turn to get the funds rather than proactively seek funds for improving school infrastructure with emphasis on water and sanitation.
In a resource competitive environment, whatever resources are available to national and local governments for schools, are used for construction of classrooms and salary of teachers. The issue of water and sanitation is neglected. Even if resources are to be available through private donations, in the absence of any “pressure” from higher authorities on the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene, and the fact that children are not vote banks, there is little incentive to analyze the benefits of this common-sense subject that has such a profound impact on lives of children, especially girls, influencing the overall public health arena. Rarely there is a funding provision for operation and maintenance and for minor repairs. It is as if once the facilities are constructed / installed they will carry on automatically forever. The effect of this combined apathy results in poor quality of structures and facilities, poor inappropriate designs, indifferent maintenance and finally children’s reluctance to use dirty and smelly toilets, or wash hands.
V. Kurian Baby, SPO, IRC
Empowered local self -governments (ELSGs) will be able to generate enough resources to meet their policy obligations. It depends on the depth and extent of decentralization; whether they are truly decentralized or only de-concentrated. Under genuine decentralization the powers, functions, finance and functionaries are fully devolved with a comprehensive empowerment /capacity building process on the basis of scientific need assessment to perform the devolved responsibilities. Responsibility drives capacity – if it can work at centralized level, it can effectively work at decentralized level too. However devolved responsibilities are to be determined through systematic activity mapping built strictly on the principle of subsidiarity – functions that could only be effectively designed and managed through decentralized delivery mechanism need to be devolved to the lowest appropriate level. Water and sanitation in developing country context is a typical case for local devolution whereas nuclear policy and defense shall not. Where participation and local ownership are indispensable for successful service delivery are to be devolved at the most appropriate level.
Most often skeptics argue that local governments have very little baseline capacity and hence devolution could be possible only after they gain critical mass of capacity threshold. This argument is the outcome of ‘’master morality of colonialists ‘’in history. There are global evidences of very successful wash delivery through decentralized management across the globe so also typical universal manifestations of service delivery failure through supply driven concentrated centralized delivery models in developing countries. There is also widespread scepticism about decentralization as a means to attain sustainable service delivery, as evidenced by the developing cracks in community management. The failure is not with decentralization but with the half backed process. The failure is systemic irrespective of centralized or decentralized institutional models. We have to take decentralized management further through deepening the process and professionalizing management. Professionalised management or professional support to management with adaptive local participation and ownership is the best delivery model for wash service delivery. One has to extricate himself from the conceptual shell of limited understanding of decentralization – synonymous to voluntarism and community management. There shall be a constitutionally/legally mandated local government in charge of governance for institutional anchoring and sustainability with a broad based and functional CBO network linked to the governance structure with transparency and role clarity. Voluntarism should give way to rational –economic human behaviour built on an incentive base in configuration to the degree and dynamics of social capital. It is quite illogical that an engineer or accountant working with private or government sector is well paid at the same time communities should contribute their labour voluntarily.
The decentralised model would reduce transaction cost, cost effective service delivery and maximize social welfare. Local governments are also ideal vehicles to manage very powerful informal governance structures typical for developing context.
I think it depends on how the resources have been provided. For example; in the provision of this form of support, has the government and or the concerned service provider been involved? If yes, at which stage of the project?
If the concerned stakeholders are not included from the beginning of the project, they feel left out and somehow they consider their efforts being undermined.
It is true that in most countries poor WASH services are mostly among other factors attributed to financial contraints. But, it has also been realised that even in some cases where finances have been provided, the WASH situation has not changed much. This is due to a number of reasons. Among these, is lack of involvement of stakeholders from the beginning of the project.
As long as the 'on-ground' stakeholders dont feel a sense of belonging during the implementation of a given project, even when the project ends, they cannot easily intervene to ensure sustainability of such services.
In conclusion therefore, I think the way and point (stage) of involvement of either the government and or local communities may (or may not) undermine their levels of commitment.
Researcher in the field of Water and Sanitation
UNESCO-IHE, Delft-The Netherlands
Is funding for direct delivery of school WASH services from NGOs, donors and other stakeholders undermining the commitment of national governments and communities? To me it seems so explicit that direct delivery of school WASH services from NGOs, donors and other stakeholders does undermine the commitment of national governments and communities. Is not the whole point of development work based on countries undertaking action themselves without the assistant of external funders.
It is wonderful to see such a dynamic discussion taking place. I agree with all the colleagues whom are for this statement. Sustainable development is about national, district and local level taking on their own responsibilities around WASH in schools If you have the chance do have a look at the video on the following link- getting the most local level involved in WASH in school: http://www.washinschools.info/page/210
When used strategically, external financing can strengthen national and local commitment, rather than undermine it.
First, external donors should ensure they are “minor stakeholders” when it comes to financing direct delivery of WASH in schools projects. Securing the bulk of finance (>50%) must remain the responsibility of (local) government and school authorities. This way they remain accountable and cannot pass on responsibility to donors when projects don’t deliver.
Secondly, donors should focus more on building the capacities of local stakeholders to live up to their commitments.
Finally, donors and local stakeholders should sign up to some form of (financial and institutional) sustainability clause. This would include an agreement to implement a transparent system to monitor the commitments of all stakeholders.
In principle effective delivery of WASH interventions to achive expected outcomes depends on the synergy of the three levels:Local ,national and international.We need the local level commitment and whatever locally available resources,we need national level political,policy and budgetary commitment for going-to-scale and the international support to keep re-igniting the national commitments and linking to the international commitments.Finally , it makes a huge difference with all three levels working complementarily and each adding value to the other.We should not underestimate the value-addition of any of the three levels !
It is difficult to place oneself on the yes or no side of this argument. In an ideal situation – that most of us are striving for – school WASH would be provided by governments. This is the end game, but we are clearly not there yet. One of the key ways in which international donors and NGOs can help to achieve this is through policy advocacy and through being part of the process to develop best practices. Implementing school WASH programs, when done properly through engagement with local partners, communities and government agencies, gives us the understanding of the sector, the challenges and context and the name recognition necessary to be a credible voice in effective policy advocacy at the country level. Basically, experience in the trenches gets you a seat at the table and can sometimes give you more credibility than those who may be seen as being in “ivory towers.”
Best practices in school WASH are still being developed and much of this would likely not have happened without programs from external donors. Development and refinement of these best practices can then be seen as another step toward the end game. Perhaps governments will see that the often quite small investments required for school WASH can have great benefits in a wide range of areas: directly, health and education of course, but also, indirectly, poverty alleviation, the local and national economy, gender equality, maternal and child health, in fact, most of the MDGs! Communities may also see what is possible and both engage further in improving the situation in their community and local school and in advocating for improved services themselves.
I would argue that external donors' use and refinement of good practices through implementation of school WASH should be part of the hand that they play in effectively advocating for both governments and communities to take on increased commitment in the sector.
Simon Mead, WaterCan
No! I think it is obvious that external funding for WASH in School does not undermine national and local commitment. The budget from the Government to the responsible institutions at the local or District level is not adequate to ensure that every school benefit from the program. There is limited resources competing for large number of programs and projects in the country. Therefore, there will be the need to source for external funding to top up the Governemnt budget or local District budget to achieved comprehesive WASH program for school. No District or community should be left behind in the program delivery. External funding as it is seen (by both local and Governemnt) is just a support to complement the effort of Government or local districts. The external support has help the Government to extend services and provision of WASH facilities to deprived and unreached local district and communities. The communities and local Government recognised the contribution and external funding support from Donor, Developed Nations, and individuals for WASH in school because a nation without good and healthy pupils will result in weak human resources capacity at the base. The local people and Governement do not only see these funders as friends, partners but also as shareholders. Lastly external funding to the Government unconciously strengthens bilateral relations between countries and Donors. All effort should be put in place to ensure continuous support to the weaker countries and Governments in the other continents.
Direct service delivery for WASH in Schools (WinS) has its place in certain situations. In emergencies, for example, or – in some cases – in poor communities where government funding is limited or non-existent. However, direct funding should always be leveraged in such a way that it goes beyond serving the target schools and communities. Externally-funded projects should be designed to serve as models to demonstrate successful new approaches and principles (or even to demonstrate what doesn’t work). But this doesn’t happen automatically: external support for service delivery must be provided within a broader programme of cooperation with local and national government stakeholders that can capitalize on the demonstration potential of pilots. For example, if the project is properly monitored and assessed it can provide evidence on benefits accruing from WinS to help leverage new finance streams, or it can be an input to a process on modifying national standards for WinS.
That fact that most national and local funds on WASH ends up embezzled does not in any way means that they are undermined by external funding. External funding as you would agree with have been in most areas where WASH programs are needed most, the saving grace. if we really want to save our future generation and leaders, direct delivery of school WASH services should be prioritized for now.
For the sake of argument, I think that external funding for WASH in Schools projects does not undermine national and local commitment to providing these services. In theory, I would prefer to say “yes” but, in practice, I say “no”. All too often in my travels in the developing world visiting schools and their respective water supply and latrine systems I see poorly maintained and dilapidated systems that show no signs of cleanliness and maintenance long after funding has ended. Local and national governments are just not putting the necessary resources into these systems. Could it be because of external funding opportunities? Perhaps. Could it be the cultural viewpoint of adults towards children? I think more likely.
Who hasn’t visited a school where the students get excited to see a visitor and congregate at the classroom door and windows to gawk at the visitors only to get shooed away by teachers and other adults? I think there is a lack of respect of adults towards children. Children are seen as a drain of resources, especially financial and food, and play a subservient role to adults instead of being seen for the potential positive inputs to the household and community they can bring as they grow into adults. Until this potential is recognized by adults, especially adult leaders and educators, children will not be provided with the services (i.e., improved water supplies and sanitation) that they require to succeed in school and live healthy, productive lives.
I would have to say I support this view although I don't have a great deal of experience of working on the ground in this sector. One point I would like to make though is that in many cases I have read about when external funding programs come to an end the operation and maintenance of such programs/infrastructure often fails to meet the required standards anymore. This cycle often has a relitevely short lifespan and once that external support network (and funding) has been removed there is no longer the drive to monitor progress, standards and achievements. Here is were I think the undermining comes in as national and local commitment are there for the longhaul and as such more of a focus of external funding bodies should be given to building the capacity of those national and local bodies. That way when the 'pot' of external funding money and support comes to an eventual end the national and local bodies have the ability to continue to support the maintainance and operatation of that WASH initiative well into the future.
In support what has been said above I want to suggest some issues that have to be brought up with those responsible for sanitation (not only toilets) on schools.
- sanitation at school do not have to look all alike. There is a need for benchmarking and gradual progress to allow communities, school administrations and governments to improve school sanitation without being scared of by standards of external donors or rigid engineers.
- experience shows that in most school students pee more than using the toilet for poo. Urinal are easier to clean and less expensive to construct. Nevertheless, you will find view school with separated and relative more urinal.
- school sanitation program should first of all been targeted at people order and are building schools. It is simply unbelievable that schools are build without sanitation facilities.
- in most places parents and communities are proud to send there children to school and contribute to the success of the school. Experience shows that through donations, sponsoring, activities and saving schemes people can and do take initiatives to mobilize local financial resources to improve school (sanitation).
Brooks makes some good points - points that many NGOs will find scary. Rather than continuing to fix the symptoms of ineffective systems (lack of water, toilets, hygiene education, and/or handwashing facilities in schools and communities), we really do need to think about systems and the best place (if any) for external activities and/or funds to leverage changes. Changing the way we work, talk to donors and the staff we have on board will be daunting to most.
No, especially when starting up new initiatives external funding is essential to demonstrate the problem and its potential impacts. In many developing countries, certainly the initial capital costs for construction of WASH facilities will not be covered by national or local government budgets unless they (and the people who vote for them) are convinced of the importance of WASH in Schools.... we all know that people learn more from experiencing that something works than from being told that something will work.