The Fourth R In Education
As hundreds of millions of children across the world head back to school this fall and you prepare your back-to-school stories, something critical will be missing for more than half of those children. It's not
teachers or text books or even desks; it's toilets.
Each year, 272 million school days are lost to absenteeism caused by diarrhea; in some areas, over forty percent of diarrhea cases result from transmission in schools, rather than homes. Over half the world's schools lack toilets and a place for children to wash their hands, and fifty percent lack safe drinking water. It doesn't matter how good the education is if children are forced to miss school.
That's why this October, a coalition of nearly thirty organizations, including UNICEF, will organize a series of events in Washington DC to demand that the US Government, the World Bank, and others involved in the education of children across the globe, no longer forget the crucial fourth R: the Restroom. No future school should ever be built without safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, nor should any student be resigned to the disease and indignity of a school without a restroom. That fourth R makes a monumental difference to education:
- In one school in Ghana, Mohammed Yahaya, a teacher, proclaimed, "I've been teaching here for eight years. Before the borehole well we had 46 students now we have close to 400 students!"
The impact is lifelong and also affects the generation that follows. Women who have been to school are less likely to die during childbirth, and each additional year of education is estimated to prevent two maternal deaths for every one thousand women.
We invite you to begin your back-to-school reporting in advance of the October events. We can help you identify programs that are tackling this issue and improving lives. We can direct you to WASH and education experts to interview about this issue. We can connect you to US organizations, teachers and students that are directly involved with solving this problem through service learning programs (US schools matched to developing country schools). The coalition has a global network of on-the-ground partners that will help you meet the students, teachers and parents affected by this issue so you can hear their stories directly. For more information, feel free to download this pdf from Unicef – Raising Clean Hands.