We’d like to teach the World to wash – Christina’s Story
She is an 11 year old girl that goes to a Te Tapu school in the Solomon Islands. It takes her 2 hours to walk to her remote school and she has to cross 5 rivers. These rivers are often flooded during the rainy season and this prohibits her crossing them and attending the school. The school day starts at 8am and finishes at 12, then she will then walk home to what is often her first meal of the day rice and cabbage. Christina’s school has a role of 95, although attendance is often a lot lower.
The school had no power and is made up of incredibly primitive buildings that serve as classrooms. The teaching staff struggle with a disconnect to the community and funds allotted to the school are not always getting to the right place.
UNICEF have begun to introduce a water and sanitation program into this school which is barely accessible by a newly built road which is a two hour drive from Honiara. But unfortunately the UNICEF project is ill fated for a number of reasons. Whilst the teaching staff have attended the UNICEF training the community has little desire to buy into the change and money allotted to the school is often not prioritised in the most needed places.
To get drinking water the children must walk for two hours. Yet a water tank sits unconnected on the school grounds that could easily capture the schools needs from the heavy rains that now fall each day.
A primitive hand wash station that has been set up although this is regularly demolished by the older boys who use the school grounds to play soccer.
The kids are often sick with diarrhoea which creates absenteeism and defecation challenges. The school has built one communal pit toilet that is 5 minutes walk away up a hill through dense damp muddy bush, a very real rape risk for Christina and the other girls her age who are minutes away from getting their periods.
Despite all this, the teaching staff remain committed to making the change and protecting the students.
I look at this country and know there is so much work to do but getting real change and giving choice to a girl like Christina has already begun, sure she is still likely to be culturally subjected to behaviours that are abhorrent to us, but she is at school and she is being offered a way to protect herself from disease and sexual advance through the water and sanitation program and the school learnings.
It’s up to so many of us to look beyond what we believe is important to us, to dilute the incessant chasing of material gain as our yard stick of success and look to the change we can make for a girl like Christina by simply supporting the work that UNICEF is doing in a country like the Solomon’s. Facts about the Solomon’s are:
- The infant death rate is 45%
- The molestation of young girls before the age of 15 is 38%
- Only 30% of the population have access to a toilet as we would know it (this alone creates problems for young children defecating on the beaches where they live, here they are subject to salt water crocodile attacks that may claim their lives )
- 43 % have access to education, but attendance can be disrupted for a variety of reasons
- 72% are subject to violent discipline at home
UNICEF and the work they are doing for children in the Solomon’s towards health, washing, child protection and education are making some huge inroads, but this is one NGO that all of us need to get behind. The pacific is our neighbourhood and we must get involved.
Make this Christmas one that counts and truly make a difference.