Little doctors helping to improve sanitation and hygiene practices

Lessons from Phonthong: awareness is key

A programme called Little Doctors (Dokter Kecil) selects and trains elementary students to become agents of change for improving hygiene and sanitation behaviour in their community.

The program selects and trains students on health promotion, and by using pictures, cards, songs, dances and discussions, these children are learning to communicate clearly and effectively about good hygiene and healthy behaviours such as washing hands and properly using a toilet.

As many as 50 little doctors from 40 elementary schools attended these events, and were accompanied by their teachers and principals.

One boy, Farel, said he was happy about being gathered with his peers in this training. “I want to tell my friends and my family how to wash hands with soap,” he said with enthusiasm.

Farel’s mother was very happy to be part of his son learning activity. “I am proud that my son is trained as a driver and an example for his friend, hopefully this kind of learning activity will be held in other schools in Sijunjung so that other children get the same opportunity” she said.

A teacher said that a successful little doctors programme promises to save children lives and improve community health.  “I hope the community are more aware of the importance of clean and healthy behavior through UKS training for teachers, sanitation ambassadors and little doctors programme,” he added.

After the training, the children share the lessons learned in school home to their mother, father, siblings and relatives. They will also share with friends at school or at home. In school, twice a month they will stand in front of the class and share three hygiene and sanitation messages, and ask the class to join them in repeating the messages. The little doctors also get a chance to speak for the whole student body at the weekly Monday school ceremony.

Through repetition and group activity, it is hoped that these messages will stay in the minds of the students, and they will practise these behaviours when they are at home and in school.

As part of its Small Towns Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All Programme (SSH4A), SNV is supporting the local governments of four districts in the provinces of West Sumatra to implement their unit kesehatan sekolah (UKS) programme.

UKS is a national school health programme that promotes sanitation in schools. Health in school includes environmental health, nutrition in schools, and regular health monitoring.

SNV’s goal is to accelerate the implementation of UKS in elementary schools. Based on a rapid assessment it was found that still many of the elementary schools have not fully implemented UKS, particularly the sanitation part.

SNV provides technical advice to promote hygiene and sanitation in schools, which includes the provision of trainers/resource persons, education materials and training modules for teachers; and technical recommendations for the planning and implementation of the UKS programme at schools.

Through formal trainings and informal discussion, SNV motivates teachers, school principals and parents to promote hygiene and sanitation through the UKS programme. The discussions and SNV’s recommendations resulted in starting the little doctors programme to create hygiene and sanitation ambassadors within the schools, and to allow five minutes before the end of class to promote at least three hygiene and sanitation messages.

To help drive improvements in sanitation and hygiene in Indonesia, SNV Indonesia has implemented the Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All programme (SSH4A). The goal of the programmes is improved health and quality of life of men and women through access to sustainable and environmentally safe sanitation and improved hygiene practices. Those without access to safe water and improved sanitation are often the poorest and the most marginalised groups of society. At SNV we strive for access to sustainable basic services for all.