Thursday, February 24, 2011

COL Cameroon Link Child-to-Child Health Clubs

By Celine Asonganyi, Cameroon Link
This project was initiated by the Commonwealth of Learning, COL, Cameroon Link Programme, and aims to raise awareness about the importance of proper sanitation and hygiene among school children, teachers, and parents in the outlying areas of Lebialem, in the south west region of Cameroon. The chil-to-child club activities was used as the entry channel for the involvement of young persons in primary schools during the ongoing “Mother and Child Health Care Project” covering three sub divisions of Lebialem.
COL Cameroon Link uses peer education and the formation of sanitation clubs to complement the building of infrastructure, such as latrines and hand-washing facilities.
Communication Strategies
The child-to-child sanitation clubs during the youth week from the 4th – 11th February, use a peer education model in which older youth between the ages of 17 and 24 are trained as facilitators to spread messages about the importance of sanitation and hygiene to school children through various interactive strategies.
These peer educators encourage the formation of child-to-child sanitation clubs and, to date, clubs are operating in over 10 schools, involving about 12,000 students. These clubs are involved in advocating for healthy schools and good hygiene practices, and warning about the dangers of unhygienic environments through participatory methods like song, dance, theatre, and games. For example, children advocated for central refuse collection spots so that they no longer had to share their play spaces with garbage. They also raised awareness on how proper disposal of syringes and other medical material could help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
In addition to raising awareness around sanitation, the clubs aim to provide students with safe after-school activities, as well as leadership skills, and an opportunity to engage in arts and creative media. The project also includes a child-to-child radio programme on Lebialem Community Radio that uses child presenters and supports the objectives of the sanitation clubs.
COL Cameroon Link Partnership Liaison organizing the youth health development activity within child care advocacy, has observed that the sanitation clubs are having an impact on adults in the community as well; this outcome emerges from efforts to establish linkages between Parent-Teacher Associations and communities to ensure that hygiene education skills acquired in school can influence behaviour change at the community level. Children take home the messages of good sanitation and begin to practice these habits at home.
As a result, parents and adults have begun putting pressure on the local authorities to provide better sanitation and hygiene education and services in all schools. According to COL Cameroon Link Partnership Liaison person, James Achanyi-Fontem, the success of the project has prompted inter-school discussions through radio drama competitions among students and teachers about the issues. This COL Cameroon Link initiative has inspired other municipalities to begin fundraising to start the project in their schools.
Development Issues
Health, Children, Youth, Sanitation
Key Points
In 2010, a Cameroon Link study found that 75% of all primary schools in Lebialem had no toilets for boys or girls and no hand-washing facilities. Few schools promoted hygiene, and those that did focused on lectures by teachers with no student participation. The authorities of the ministries of basic education and public health state that an unexpected benefit of the project is that it is allowing girls to stay in school longer and there has been no cholera outbreak in Lebialem as in other parts of Cameroon recently. Previously, many girls would leave school because of the lack of toilet facilities. For the girls existing toilets left them without any privacy. According to the COL Cameroon Link Liaison person, now that child-friendly, separate sanitation facilities for girls and boys have been installed, girls are staying on to complete their basic primary education.
The COL Cameroon Link programme is executed closely with the Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Education and Lebialem Community Radio as an Open Distance Learning process to see how the sanitation clubs can be replicated in other communities. As part of its national curriculum reform, The government schools of Cameroon have committed 15% of the school term to reflect on local issues. Cameroon Link is pressing for hygiene promotion activities to be part of that 15%.
In 2010, COL Cameroon Link Partnership Liaison introduced Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) pilot programme in Lebialem as an effort to accelerate the construction of new facilities with support from parent-teacher associations and schools themselves and adequate use of the facilities already available in the schools. This process involves training of 50 people from 10 health districts in May 2011. Cameroon Link has been invited to attend the National Meeting of the Ministry of Public Health annually to present new approaches to more than 50 health education officers and community health organization leaders already in partnership with the health promotion department. This meeting is chaired by the Minister of Public Health, Andre Mama Fouda, who appreciates the new approach and reports to the prime minister who requests other sectors, education colleagues and women’s empowerment , social welfare and youth ministry collaborators to support this approach to accelerate sanitation and stop open defecation in schools and surrounding communities. The CLTS implementation strategy will be presented in a joint COL Cameroon Link planning exercise between district health officials, civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at a Commonwealth of Learning and Open Distance Learning exchange meeting to be held in Douala in July 2011. Participants will also be briefed on the on-going COL project in Cameroon and the outcome of the last Pan Commonwealth of Learning Forum at Kochi, India of which Cameroon Link was honoured as delegate for the linking media to health and community development training.
Commonwealth of learning, COL
IBFAN Africa
Ministry of Public Health
Ministry of Basic Education
Lebialem Community Radio

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