Soap Stories: Tanzanian Students Take Health to the Next Level

When it came to health and hygiene, Buira primary school, a remote school in rural Tanzania, faced two major challenges.

First, most of the 800 students didn’t wear shoes walking to school and throughout the day.

Mrs. Fundikira, Buira’s Health Teacher, shared, “One of the biggest challenges we encountered during the past three years was students coming to school barefoot.” To parents and community members, students not wearing shoes to school and during classes wasn’t a major issue.

Second, the school didn’t have hand-washing stations.

Mr. Painetho, Buira’s Head Teacher, said, “Most of the students didn’t wash their hands before each meal and after the meal, as well as after the using the latrine.” This also was another challenge the school had to solve.

Not wearing shoes or washing hands with soap regularly can spread infections and disease among the students and community members. Proper hygiene can go a long way in preventing diseases. School closures due to the spread of waterborne diseases like typhoid fever, cholera, diarrhea and hepatitis have been a possibility.

The teachers realized the challenges and aimed to find immediate solutions.

Through PCI’s USDA-funded Food for Education programs in Tanzania, Guatemala and Nicaragua, we’re helping to promote hygiene and nutrition practices and creating real and lasting behavior change, as well as ensuring access to clean water in participating schools. We’re also helping communities develop sustainable water systems. This includes digging wells, building latrines, and constructing safe water and sewage systems.

Buira’s teachers collaborated with PCI and the Tanzania Department of Health to provide trainings on the importance of health and hygiene. The strategy was to first teach parents the importance of hygiene and health behavior.

Mrs. Fundikira, said, “We tried our best to facilitate and sensitize parents through assemblies and gatherings like village meetings. We started to experience changes as most of our students started to come up with proper school uniforms including shoes and socks.”

The teachers worked to strengthen the school’s health club. Through the club, students help other students wash their hands and maintain cleanliness throughout the school building. The club also ensures trash is properly disposed of and handled. Students wash their hands after using the latrine and before and after each meal.

Alloyce Renatus, PCI Senior Community Mobilizer, shared, “I’ve had the opportunity to visit Buira and I’ve seen big changes in health-related issues. I really saw a different school from the first Buira I knew before. About 98 percent of students wear shoes now and the school environment is generally clean. The hand-washing stations are almost everywhere – from latrines to the kitchen where food is prepared.”

Renatus added, “I can confidently say Buira took health intervention to next level. They have shown us that if there is a will, there is a way.”

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Photos and story by: Alloyce Renatus, Senior Community Mobilizer, PCI Tanzania