Jean Kabalu is determined to maintain his school clean

Jean Kabal:Members of the school hygiene brigade are cleaning their school yardsAt the Wamba Dipanda primary school, in the Kwengo territory of the Bandundu province, around 300km east of Kinshasa, everyone is proud of having obtained “healthy school” status.“As the chief brigadier, I monitor discipline and cleanliness in the school,” Jean Kabalu, sixth-year student, proudly explains.

Jean Kabalu has been elected chief brigadier by his classmates

Last year he was a member of the school hygiene brigade, responsible for the upkeep of latrines, and this year he has been elected chief brigadier by his classmates because “he was the best student, and he felt brave enough to take on the role”.

It is a role which entails several responsibilities. Among these, it is monitoring the clothing and cleanliness of the students which he considers the most important. When certain students arrive at school in dirty clothing, he sends them back home to wash and change. “Thankfully that doesn’t happen very often”, he says.

He would also like the floor tiles of the latrines to be repaired, the classroom walls to be rebuilt and the outside area to be better cared for. “At my level there’s not much I can do about the toilets and the walls. However, I’m working hard to get the students to plant more flowers and palm trees in the outside area, and to have the long grass cut more often.”

Members of the school hygiene brigade of the Wamba Dipanda primary school are ready to clean their latrines

Members of the school hygiene brigade of the Wamba Dipanda primary school are ready to clean their latrines

A partnership for positive results

The Ministry for Primary, Secondary and Professional Education in the DRC established the “healthy school” programme in 2008 with the support of UNICEF. In the Kwengo territory, 15 schools were involved in the programme in 2008.

Today 28 have achieved healthy status and another 8 are working towards certification. At a national level, there are now 1515 schools who have achieved healthy status. Onesime Bipa Bantela, the head teacher, has witnessed the progress made in his school: “I have personally learned a lot through the healthy school programme”.

“I have been the head teacher for 15 years. When I arrived, there was overgrown grass, the buildings were run-down, there were not enough latrines and the students did not wash their hands. Today, many head teachers come to see me to get my advice on how their schools can also obtain “healthy school” status.”

Advantages of being part of the programme “healthy school”

There are various advantages to being part of the programme, since UNICEF and its partners finance the construction of improved latrines and hand-washing stations in schools involved in the programme. But to join, the schools must prove that they are taking active steps towards improving their environment themselves.

“I would also advise other head teachers to not wait to start taking steps, but rather to immediately improve hygiene and sanitation in their schools in order to obtain healthy status. For this reason the 3 schools in the village have installed hand-washing stations and maintain the up-keep of their outside areas. And my influence reaches as far as Mangoy, a village 3km from here on the way to Kenge, where the primary school has set up a school hygiene brigade!”

In the Kwengo territory, there has been a notable improvement in understanding of environment and hygiene which extends past the targeted schools. One of the strong points of this programme is its impact on the community.

In every village where there is a healthy school, there is a school committee which ensures the status is not lost. And the village chiefs are regularly members of these. Their influence is very useful for promoting good hygiene habits reaching beyond the school.

Jean Kabalu: Students of the Wamba Dipanda primary school are washing their hands with soap and a bucket provided by the UNICEF

Students of the Wamba Dipanda primary school are washing their hands with soap and a bucket provided by the UNICEF

Jean Kabalu: a good example to follow

When he has finished his studies, Jean would like to be an electrician and he is sure that his experience as chief brigadier will be useful to him later on, since he has “learned to give direction to others, to have a sense of discipline and to take on responsibility”.

Besides, he is already putting what he has learned into practice. When Jean goes home, he continues to educate those around him. “I have started with my five little brothers and sisters: I am teaching them to wash their hands before meals.”

Post translated from french by Amber Sherman

Photo:UNICEF RDC 2015 Gwenn dubourthoumieu

Thanks to the British cooperation and USAID for their support to the Healthy School and Villages National Programme.

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Gwenn Dubourthoumieu

Gwenn Dubourthoumieu s’est intéressé à la photographie alors qu’il travaillait en Afrique pour des ONG humanitaires. Professionnel depuis avril 2010, son travail est régulièrement récompensé. Il travaille régulièrement pour UNICEF RDC en tant que consultant photographique.

Gwenn Dubourthoumieu became interested in photography while working in Africa for humanitarian NGOs. Professional since 2010, his work is regularly rewarded.  He's a photography consultant for UNICEF DRC.

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