IN 2018, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 24 January as the International Day of Education, to celebrate the role of education for peace and development. The very first celebration of this Day of Education will be marked at the United Nations in New York. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) advocates that without inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, countries will not succeed in achieving gender equality and breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind.
“This day is the occasion to reaffirm fundamental principles. Firstly, education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility. Secondly, education is the most powerful force in our hands to ensure significant improvements in health, to stimulate economic growth, to unlock the potential and innovation we need to build more resilient and sustainable societies…” Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director General
Education is a human right that should be available to all. However, in countries all over the world, children attend schools in unsafe environments which lack access to safe drinking water and handwashing facilities and no proper toilets and sanitation. Even where school enrolments have improved, learning outcomes remain poor because absenteeism due to water-borne illness and smoke-related respiratory problems.
“If education is the key to helping children escape poverty, access to water and sanitation is key to helping children safely maximize their education. To neglect this is to be careless with the well-being and health of children.”
Kelly Ann Naylor, Global Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, UNICEF.
With a vision of bringing clean infrastructure to school communities in Africa, Healthy Schools International (HSI) works to promote the link between healthy environments and student performance at underserved schools in rural district of Sierra Leone and Kenya. Most recently HSI partnered in a Global Grant with the Rotary International of West Springfield, Virginia USA and Sierra Leone Rotary clubs.
Along with eco-friendly infrastructure such as clean water, safe sanitation and solar electricity projects, HSI works with school and community leaders to develop revenue-generating business models based on the projects so there are funds always available for the upkeep of the systems. In addition to providing essential furniture and classroom supplies, HSI helps students thrive by providing eco-friendly water, sanitation and energy solutions. Projects in Sierra Leone include the installation of a new latrine block utilizing waterless, composting technology, and solar electricity for four classroom buildings. A similar strategy is being developed for implementation in the rural district of Maasai land in the Southern Rift Valley of Kenya.
Healthy Schools is passionate about this mission and dedicated to building on its current success. Achieving basic level of health and sanitation in schools has required significant efforts to raise awareness among students, parents, teachers, and their communities. HSI is working to promote the understanding, recognition and adoption of these environmental concerns as essential and integral components of an effective learning environment. As the world marks the very first International Education Day and works to promote education, HSI remains committed to advocating for and promoting healthy learning environments that help to improve learning outcomes for children and help them safely maximize their education.