Why Child participation is important in providing water and sanitation facilities
in schools
All the children are born with all the human rights that are entitled for adults as
well. These rights enable them to claim for their right to participation in many of
things that affect their lives. The United Nations convention on the rights of the
child (CRC, 1989) is the first human right treaty to recognize children’s rights. Under
the article 12 of CRC children have rights to express their opinion freely and to have
their opinions taken into account on any matter affecting them and article 13
explains about their right to express their views, obtain information and make ideas
or information.
There is no common definition for child participation. The right to participate can be
further elaborated as the “activities where girls and boys, young men and women
express their views and are involved in an informed and willing way in shaping
decisions that affect them regardless of their gender, abilities, ethnicity and social
background and are entitled to obtain information, express their views on all matter
of concern to them and to have those views taken into account, according to their
evolving capacities.” (Minimum Standards for Children’s Groups, Asia Region).
The term of child participation is being used for a wide range of activities. Children
participation has been promoted in events, activities and projects in order to achieve
their outcomes. In most situations their rights have not been turned into practical
approaches that make real differences in their lives. Participation of children can be
at different levels as per the ladder of child participation.
One type is not
necessarily ‘better’ than another, since it depends on what works best for the project
and children involved. Different levels of participation can be appropriate with
different children at different stages of a project.
Types of approaches involving
children from level 1 to 3 are NOT ‘meaningful’ children’s participation.
1. MANIPULATION: Children or young people don’t understand the project and its
aims. They are directed by adults to do things, sometimes/often for political
2. DECORATION: Adults ask children or young people simply to sing or dance or
wear a slogan T-shirt at an event related to a particular cause. They do not
explain the cause to the children or involve them in organizing level.
3. TOKENISM: Children or young people are apparently given a voice, but in fact
they have little or no choice about the subject or how they will communicate it.
They have little or no opportunity to express their own, rather than the adult’s
4. ASSIGNED BUT INFORMED: Adults decide on the project and children volunteer
to be involved. Children understand the project and know why they are involved
and who decided to involve them. The children have a meaningful role and the
adults respect their inputs.
5. CONSULTED AND INFORMED: The project is designed and run by adults, but
children fully understand the process and their opinions are taken seriously.
the initial idea for the project, young people are involved in planning and
implementation. Their views are considered and they are involved in making the
7. CHILD INITIATED AND DIRECTED: The children or young people have the initial
idea for the project and decide how it is to be implemented. Adults are available
for support but do not take over.
people have the idea and initiate the project. They then seek advice, discussion
and support from adults. The adults provide their expertise for children to
Child learning and teaching methods
are fundamental for encouraging children to express themselves in schools.
Therefore children are entitled to be involved in decisions and different stages of the
projects cycle that provide water and sanitation facilities in schools and promote
hygiene, which ideally should be child friendly.
But most of times children are
excluded from decisions that affect them at home, communities and schools.
Student associations and students councils such as school health club in Sri Lanka
offer opportunities for student representation
management and planning.
and participation
The schools health club is a forum for children’s
participation in hygiene promotion and which is endorsed by the circular, 2007/21
issued by the Ministry of Education. This is an important forum for children to learn
and practice, debating and democratic decision making skills.
As children have
competencies, knowledge and abilities and are able to contribute to shape their
school environment. Even younger children should be given opportunities for
Community level planning of water and sanitation projects, housing projects and
water and sanitation projects in schools can offer opportunities for involving children
in decisions that affects them such as location of facilities, requirements for lights,
ventilation, privacy and external environment.
Provision of water and sanitation
comes under the healthy, safe and protective environment for children, one of the
dimensions of Child friendly school framework.
There are factors that are
considered in providing
child friendly water and
participation of children
can be considered.
Facilities should be
encouraged the hygiene
They should be simple to use and are provided with necessary items such as
soap and cleaning material at toilets and hand washing stations that promote
hygiene behaviors.
Facilities should have appropriate dimensions and adjustments for children to
make facilities accessible and comfortable.
As children require different
dimensions than those for adults.
Facilities should offer enough capacity and minimal waiting time, to use
toilet/drink water/ hand washing facilities. Small children need the assistance
from adults to go to the toilet.
Lack of facilities can lead to urinate and
defecate in open, ‘forget’ to wash their hands, throw garbage on the ground
or drink water from unsafe sources
Facilities should provide appropriate locations for young children, considering
about their practical, environmental and cultural aspects.
As well-designed
facility might not be used if the location is not considered properly.
Facilities must address the gender-related needs and roles, in which privacy
and security of both girl and boy students are protected. Facilities for special
needs of adult girl children, especially on menstrual hygiene management
should be provided.
Facilities should address the needs for children with physical disabilities. As
exclusion from sanitation and safe water, can result in isolation, poor health,
and poverty.
Disable friendly facilities can be incorporated into original
design and that allows disabled to use the facilities.
Hygiene promotion can stimulate children’s learning and development, and
ensure that educational tools are designed in an age-appropriate way.
Water and sanitation projects are designed with involvement of all relevant
stakeholders and active involvement of the users, mainly the children is
essential in all phases of the design process. As Their involvement during the
design stage of hygiene, sanitation and water facilities will lead to better
solutions and increased acceptance of these solutions.
facilities should look for low-cost solutions without compromising quality and
should be
affordable, durable, encourage proper use, and are easy to
maintain and keep clean
Construction and use of facilities should not harm the environment and
environmental sustainability should be an integral part of the design,
implementation, operation, and maintenance of sanitary facilities and hygiene
education program.
Facilities should have a good operation and maintenance plans that indicate
who is responsible for cleaning, maintenance and the costs involved. It will
also ensure involvement of children, teachers, parents and the community in
the continuous process of monitoring and improving hygiene practices at