Monday 28 October 2013

WASH in Schools Research Blog - Part 1

by Jacques-Edouard Tiberghien for BPD

BPD’s WinS research projects launched!

Kick-off with Masters students of Sciences-Po Paris

I spent a day in Paris at Sciences-Po at the beginning of the month for the kick-off meetings of two new BPD research projects, focusing on WASH in schools (WinS). It really feels good to initiate those projects, and for a number of reasons: First of all, they embody our growing interest and engagement in the topic and our commitment for enhancing the sustainability of WinS. They also reflect BPD’s standpoint, highlighting the institutional and partnerships dimensions of WinS work. Finally, this joint work with Sciences-Po PSIA (Paris School of International Affairs) is a première for BPD and we are hopeful that these projects mark the beginning of fruitful collaboration with this renowned institution.
Aims of our research projects:
1. To develop a typology to characterise, compare and strengthen WinS partnerships.
2. To analyse the nature and evolution of the engagement of private sector actors (and other non-traditional actors) in WinS work and, drawing from a partnership analysis of WinS work, make recommendations on how to enhance it. 

How did we get here?

BPD has been here for 15 years and has not done much work on WinS until lately. Well, the nature of WinS interventions has evolved quite a bit in the past 30 years. It started as rather polarised on the hardware component of the problem, concentrating on the provision of taps and toilets. Then, software components, including hygiene promotion, the formation of health clubs and strengthening of WinS committees, were gradually integrated to seek sustainable hygiene behaviour change and ensure an appropriate O&M of the WASH systems. Arguably, the quality of both these components has now been perfected to a very satisfying degree and any programmes can now easily tap into the well-documented and easily available solutions to implement an integrated hardware plus software WinS intervention.

Latrine cemetery under works in a rural school somewhere near Mombasa.
Latrine cemetery in a rural school somewhere near Mombasa. 
Yet, despite all this learning, WinS programmes keep facing major difficulties to deliver sustainable gains. And amongst the key challenges faced, practitioners keep pointing the finger at the institutional complexity of WinS work and the difficulty to get local stakeholders to fulfil their part of the job so that kids can use clean, well-maintained toilets and wash their hands with soap. Now, at BPD we share the view that WinS programmes are very strategic interventions for the sector: the vulnerability of children to wash-related diseases, the appalling state of sanitary conditions in schools worldwide, and the fact that these are probably the best places to instil new hygiene behaviour in the population are sufficient reason to justify more collective efforts on WinS. 

The progressive recognition in the sector that a sustainable solution to the problem requires a deeper understanding of its institutional dimension and corresponding pragmatic solutions has prompted BPD’s mobilisation on the subject. The work that we have been carrying out in the past three years has boosted our conviction that BPD’s expertise in the field of multi-sector partnerships (MSPs) can contribute to solve the WinS sustainability puzzle. Watch this space for the next instalment! 

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