Burkina Faso School Sanitation and Hygiene Education experiences in the Ganzourgou province

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Burkina Faso - School Sanitation and Hygiene Education experiences in the Ganzourgou province

Leocardi Bouda, Programme Officer, CREPA, Burkina Faso


This case study presents a School Sanitation and Hygiene Education (SSHE) experience in the Ganzourgou province in Burkina Faso. Initiated by the Ministry of Basic Education and Literacy, this pilot project was implemented in 26 schools. It received financial aid from UNICEF and the Dutch Government, and technical support from CREPA (Regional Centre for Low Cost Safe Water and Sanitation). Schools were equipped with water and sanitation facilities, while capacity building and training of teachers, children and communities resulted in change of behaviour and improved living environments.


As is sometimes the case in many African countries, schools in Burkina Faso, especially in rural areas, are major centres of community interest, coming second after sanitation facilities. Even though many of them are overcrowded, schools are the best places to stimulate child development and are quite often important for the children’s survival, as they provide school meals.
UNICEF and IRC launched a programme to promote sanitation and hygiene education in primary schools of six developing countries of Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Burkina Faso and Zambia were the two African countries chosen to participate in the project. The programme aims to show that a global and integrated approach to improved sanitation and hygiene conditions of school children and communities will directly benefit children’s learning abilities, preparing them more effectively to participate in the development of their country.
In recent years, the SSHE initiative has attracted the attention of private and semi-public institutions, including PLAN International, as well as community-based organisations. To implement their activities, they seek the approval or the support of the Ministry of Education.
The Ganzourgou project is different because, even though it is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Basic Education and Literacy (MBEL), UNICEF and IRC, and is supported by CREPA, it is implemented entirely under the supervision of the MBEL. The Ganzourgou SSHE project is a pilot project, which could be extended to other schools in the province, and/or to other provinces if the results are positive.

Satellite schools

The satellite school is a new concept being tested in Burkina Faso. These schools, which are built in villages that don’t meet the conditions (i.e. not enough inhabitants) to receive a normal school, house the three first grades of primary school. Children of seven and eight attend classes at this local school for three years. During this time, they will acquire sufficient skills to be able to go to the mother school.
Local language, as well as French, is used to implement a new method of acquiring knowledge. During hygiene and environmental sanitation lessons, existing water and sanitation facilities are taken as reference. From the start of the project, the community is involved in construction and in setting up parents associations, management committees and Helping Mothers Associations.
The mother school is a normal school with six grades, taking in children having been to satellite school, as well as other children from seven years onward. The normal cycle lasts for six years, which means the children can attend classes until they are sixteen.

Conception - Ganzourgou Province

Ganzourgou province, situated in the East of the country, has an estimated population of 223,555 (figure from 1991). The road from Ouagadougou to the Nigerian border runs right across it. Covering an area of 4,087 km2, the province is divided into three districts and seven departments. The main town is Zorgho, and the average population density is 50 inhabitants per km2. The population is mostly Mossi, the country’s dominant tribe, and there are some Peuhl and Bissa. Ganzourgou has 21 health and social service centres, one medical centre with an operating room, and seven dispensaries.
In the MBEL organisation, Ganzourgou province is part of Centre East region, which comprises three other provinces: Boulgou, Koulpélogo and Kouritenga. Each province has its Provincial Director for Basic Education and Literacy affairs. The regional head office is based in Boulgou.

Why Ganzourgou Province was chosen?

This province was chosen for two main reasons:

Ganzourgou is part of the intervention area of the funding partner UNICEF, and it is not very far from the capital Ouagadougou (105 km).

As the province has quite a large number of satellite schools, it will be easy to make comparisons with normal schools. The results can be used to make suggestions to improve all schools in the country.

The project is carried out in 26 schools in the Ganzourgou province, in Zorgho, Mogtédo, Boudry and Méguet. It was launched in July 2000 with an informative session for all actors involved.

Objectives and expected results

The main objective of the project is to bring about a noticeable improvement in the children’s and the teachers’ living environment, as well as better school results, while at the same time achieving greater involvement of the community in school activities.
Specific objectives are to:

Assess the baseline situation in 19 satellite schools and 9 public primary schools in Ganzourgou province.

Improve basic health, hygiene, and sanitation conditions in these schools.

Revise school curricula with the aim of integrating a life skills-based health education component.

Strengthen capacities of educators and pupils regarding hygiene and sanitation.

Involve families so that they too will adopt hygienic behaviours leading to improved health and living environments.

Bring together all agencies involved in activities at school level in the project area.
The results that have taken place include:

Hygiene practices and health have improved noticeably in children of all 26 schools, and they can take care of their environment.

Life-skills components have been incorporated in the curricula.

Educators have acquired sufficient knowledge to bring about changes in behaviour in schools and in the community at large.

More than 500 families around the schools and 182 members of school committees are effectively putting into practice hygiene, sanitation, and health messages.

In agreement with the technical services, NGO’s involved in SSHE promised to set up a consultative and operational framework for the different activities.

Implementation strategy

Drawing upon its experience in the field of SSHE and participatory approaches (PHAST or SARAR methods, gender issues, etc.), CREPA, which is in charge of the technical support of the Ganzourgou project, submitted an action plan to all actors involved. CREPA interventions included:

construction of water storage tanks for drinking and sanitation

capacity building (training)

monitoring the implementation of the planned activities.

Preliminary activities

Before the project leaders started the implementation, they carried out the following preparatory activities:

  1. Identification of the schools concerned, of the different stages of the action plan and of the timeline, in order to determine the responsibility of each actor. Although initiators dealt with these issues, all actors were involved in the preparations, including school staff and community members.

  2. Organising workshops to inform participating institutions, policy makers, local chiefs, and representatives of Parent Teacher Associations about the project’s objectives and to seek their support.

  3. A baseline study in the project area, questioning school children, teachers, PTA’s, Helping Mothers Associations and community members of all 26 villages on Behaviours, Skills and Practices. The results of the study were used to complete the information and training programmes of the main school actors, i.e. the teachers, educators, and inspectors. They will also be used to develop indicators for the monitoring stage of the project.

  4. Teachers training was an important part of the preparations. It focused on strengthening the teachers’ capacity to implement the SSHE project. The 98 teachers, educators, and inspectors participating in the training were taught:

the broader context in which the pilot project would be implemented;

transmission routes and barriers of water and sanitation-related diseases;

new approaches and learning methods for teaching hygiene and sanitation at different school levels;

how to set up a timeline for the implementation and monitoring of an SSHE action plan in their school;

how to develop strategies to stimulate greater involvement of other actors in the project.
At the end of the training sessions, each school launched the activities described in the action plan developed by the teachers. CREPA trainers and MBEL female inspectors led the sessions. The head doctor of the area was asked to explain specific health issues. To stimulate the teachers’ creative thinking, only one practical tool was handed out to each school – SARAR’s kit on “diseases: transmission and barriers”. Participatory learning methods were widely used for teaching hygiene and sanitation.

Physical results

No behavioural changes in the field of hygiene and sanitation can occur unless safe water sources and adequate sanitary facilities are made available. To meet these practical preconditions, without which implementing action plans would be pointless, the following structures have been build in each school:

  1. Water points: With UNICEF’s financial aid, all schools but five were equipped with a tube well. The five schools left out are situated less than 500 m from a village water point.

  2. School latrines: each school was provided with two latrine blocks, one for girls and one for boys, taking into consideration the physical and cultural needs of girls, who may refuse to use the facilities if they are not separate. Special provisions for menstrual hygiene were not made, as the children are still too young. Teachers use the latrines located on their nearby premises.

  3. Handwashing facilities: using the latrines implies several actions such as cleansing and handling various materials. As the children are small, and contact with the faeces is likely, latrine blocks were equipped with facilities for washing hands after using the latrines.

  4. Drinking water posts: drinking water devices have been placed in the classrooms to allow children to drink if they are thirsty. They will also enable children to acquire certain skills: filling up the container, handling the faucet, cleaning the device/ canari, etc.

Other results

At the school level

Water and sanitation facilities can only be effective and will only bring about a better living environment if they are properly looked after and used regularly. To assist children and parents in charge of maintenance, a team of female health technicians visit the villages across the project area.

  1. According to a timetable established jointly with the teachers, the health technicians helped the children of each school to set up a School Health Committee. The pupils in this committee are taught how to co-ordinate water, hygiene, and sanitation management activities and are given the responsibility of these tasks. The monitoring and self-monitoring activities carried out within the school framework will contribute to improve the environment, as well as personal and dress hygiene. Considering the young age of the children, each committee is assisted by two parents and supported by a master educator.

  2. Posters are hung in the classrooms, depicting examples of personal hygiene, handwashing and cleaning of the school premises. These pictures are not just there for decorative purposes, they are teaching aids providing practical illustrations of hygienic behaviour designed to encourage pupils to do the same.

  3. A cleanliness competition and a drawing contest on the hygiene and sanitation theme were held to stimulate teachers and pupils efforts towards better hygiene and cleanliness. The cleanest schools and the most dedicated teachers were rewarded, and the children who made the best drawings received a prize.

At the community level

  1. The community constitutes the children’s living environment. Conditions in the villages should not be out of step with conditions created by the SSHE project. Teachers and health technicians helped to set up Community Health Committees in each village. Having received appropriate training and information on water and sanitation-related diseases, these committees serve as a relay station, disseminating health messages in the community, so that the lessons learned in school can be backed up by the parents at the family level.

  2. To ensure that children can keep up the hygiene practices acquired in school, parents are supported financially to build family latrines. Local masons are trained to take into account the needs of the households on the one hand, and the constraints of the chosen building technology on the other hand. Five hundred demonstration latrines are to be built in the 26 villages benefiting from the project.

Evaluation results of the project

Strengths of the project

The Ganzourgou project was implemented under MBEL supervision. This will make it easier to advocate the extension of the project with decision makers and the outlook is promising.

The action plans developed by the teachers are carried out as far as possible, indicating the commitment of the main school actors to the SSHE project. What is more, working with clean children is a decided advantage.

Pupils and teachers drew up hygiene and sanitation promotion messages in a participatory manner. They will engrave these messages themselves on the latrine entrances and on the handwashing facilities.

The drawing contest generated a colourful collection of children’s illustrations that can be used for making a calendar.

Personal and dress hygiene have considerably improved, as children supervise each other. Wearing shoes is slowly becoming a common practice.

Providing a school with a water point can be a benefit for the whole village. In some project communities, the first water point they had was the one constructed in the SSHE project context.

The documentary film that was made of the project will provide useful information for those who want to initiate a similar project in their community.

A pupils point of view

My name is Issaka Kabore from the Tinsobdogo school.

Before the project came to our school, the pupils didn’t have a plan for cleaning up the classrooms and the schoolyard. Our teachers did it, but it wasn’t organised.

The old latrines were badly looked after and very dirty. The doors didn’t close, so the villagers and even unknown passers-by used them. Nobody wanted to get inside the latrines anymore, so the children defecated around them. There were no containers/ canaris for drinking water in the classrooms.

Since the project started in our school last year, there have been many changes. With the health clubs we learned how to clean, how to use the latrines properly and look after them, we have drinking water in the classrooms and our environment and our health has improved.

A teachers point of view from the same school

My name is Serge Nikiema, I’m in charge of the second grade.

Before the SSHE project in our school, we tried as best we could to keep the classrooms and the schoolyard clean, but with the children, it isn’t easy, especially with the little ones. The latrines were very dirty and disused. The fact that there was no water point on the premises didn’t make things easier.

But since the project activities were launched, and with the support of the health technicians, so many things have changed in the school. You can see it in the classrooms, now we have drinking water devices, posters, and a chart for garbage disposal.

The latrines have also much improved: they are used and maintained properly; the handwashing facility is always filled with water so that children can wash their hands after using the latrines. What is more, the school has been equipped with a well, which is a great help.

I’m extremely pleased with the project, and I think we will continue and maintain what we have learned and acquired.

Weaknesses of the project

The implementation of the planned activities was behind schedule. The time allocated to monitoring was too short, due to holiday closure of the school in June.

All the water points in the schools are also used by the communities. This makes it difficult to apply the hygiene rules learned by the children.

Some activities, such as planting trees, are difficult to carry out for small children. Buckets of water for example, necessary for watering the young trees, are too heavy for them to carry. That is why two parents, either from the PTA or the Helping Mothers Association, have been transferred to the School Health Committee.

The presence of stray animals hampers the reforestation process.

The planned consultations between all stakeholders with the aim of setting up a data bank did not succeed. Only one party involved showed up regularly at the meetings to discuss the proposed activities.

Transferring benefits from the school to the community is also slightly behind schedule.

Some of the teachers were not very motivated, especially those of the satellite schools, as their status as state-employed teachers has not yet been clarified.

Active involvement of PTAs in school matters was poor. The Mothers association showed more commitment.


The Ganzourgou SSHE project is original in that it has been implemented under the Ministry of Basic Education. Even though teachers are transferred on a regular basis, we are convinced that the hygiene and sanitation activities will be continued, because:
The newly appointed teachers in the project schools have found facilities (water points, handwashing facilities, water containers/tanks, posters) that are not common in the majority of schools in Burkina Faso. They have kept up the hygiene practices acquired by the pupils and the previous teachers.

The learning techniques developed with the teachers has allowed them to differentiate themselves from teachers in “classic” schools, thus attracting and focusing the children’s attention, and making them participate actively in hygiene and sanitation lessons.

The action plans and the posters developed during the teachers’ training have been promising and stimulating tools. The posters are quite popular, and there has been a demand for them from other schools and stakeholders, in and outside the province.

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