The Fourth R In Education

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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!"

  • In Bangladesh and Tanzania, studies show school attendance increases fifteen and twelve percent respectively, when water is available within a fifteen-minute walk compared to one hour or more.
  • In Alwar District, India, the school sanitation program increased girls' enrollment by one third, leading to a twenty-five percent improvement in academic performance for both boys and girls.
  • 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.

    8 Comments on "The Fourth R In Education"

    daphne's picture
    PoopReport of the Year AwardSite AdminComment Content ModeratorComment Quality Moderatore 6000+ points

    This is a day late because recently I stink as a front page admin. Please forgive me.


    _______
    .....hugging bunnies since 1969
    www.daphneszoo.com

    .....hugging bunnies since 1969
    www.daphneszoo.com

    the thin brown line's picture
    j 1000+ points

    Depressing..welcome to the jungle of insane undersight disguised as "budget concerns"....As a public educator, I have learned the vitality and importance of plant maintanence (aka -custodians) and the services they provide. A student has a fundamental right to clean bathroom access.
    During all formative school years (Pre K-12th), and at the university level as well, how can we expect a student to learn when bathroom conditions are dire or non-existent?
    Depressing...but let's anti up...with funds we can do this...and demanding to agencies to amend this...but we need to anti up...something many people and governments are not willing to do. Sad.

    Somethin' mysterious made an exit from the gift shop.

    MSG's picture
    Comment Quality Moderatori 2000+ points

    Good article; noble cause. Once again it is the US that is expected to carry the load. So many governments around the world are corrupt or incompetent that we must be careful to whom any money or equipment is sent, lest it merely enrich the despots while doing nothing for the schools.

    Anonymous Coward's picture

    Maybe it's time to have a televised toilet-athon. Get a bunch of famous people to donate their time answering the phones for donations while sitting on empty (hopefully) toilets. I couldn't imagine going to school without the comfort of knowing there was a proper place to unleash my "contents." just the thought of knowing there wasn't one would make me nervous and we know what nerves can do to a persons bowels. The statistics in that article are shocking and until reading it the issue never crossed my mind. Now the more I think about it the more urgent this situation becomes. Something as simple as this is taken for granted by most of the world. But once you imagine yourself being one of those children the issue becomes top priority. It's good to see that large recognized organizations are involved. Most people are so ashamed to talk about bodily waste they probably shy away from this issue as a result. Sad story but encouraging to know people out there are concerned and trying to help.

    Sitting Wiper's picture

    Excellent article. School toilets should be in tip-top condition, not only for children to relieve themselves, but also as an education in itself to use toilets away from home. Girls are in the same position for both bodily functions. But boys should feel confident about sitting on the toilet away from home, and the school is a place where they can gain this confidence, hopefully without intruders. The toilets should be clean, with adequate supplies of paper, locks on the doors, and good facilities for washing hands. They should not feel the need to 'hold on' until they get home.

    Thunderbox's picture
    PoopReport of the Year AwardComment Quality Moderatorj 1000+ points

    MSG - what on earth has this to do with US aid. And as for carrying "the load" as you say...what a load of bollocks that is.

    Did you get out of bed on the wrong side or something?

    The voice of sanity

    PooForThePlanet's picture

    Great article. It's completely depressing how this topic is consistently ignored in favour of whiz-bang technological nonsense ('one laptop per child' springs to mind). I'm part of an engineering team developing low-cost "off-the-grid" composting toilet systems; our aim is to provide top-quality thrones on which even the poorest person can feel like a king, especially in places where 'traditional' sewage systems are just never going to happen.

    Our most recent pitch for funding was to the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund, where we proposed an integrated business structure which would actually make money from poop. They didn't even want to read our business plan. That's how far down the list sanitation is on government agendas; John, if you really want to make a difference in this area, think about supporting private organisations who are dealing with the problem.

    ChiefThunderbutt's picture
    PoopReport of the Year AwardComment Content ModeratorComment Quality Moderatorf 5000+ points

    T-Box ... Many Americans mistakenly believe that we are the most generous country in the world which is simply not true. An article in the New York Times this morning revealed the following statistics on world rankings in the generosity department;

    1. Australia
    2. New Zealand
    3. Ireland
    4. Canada
    5. Switzerland
    5. United States

    We tie with Switzerland for 5th place. The UK was reported in a respectable 6th place.


    _______
    Dirty old men need love too!!

    If I had two faces do you think I'd be wearing this one?

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