WASH in Schools



Enabling Policy Environment for WASH in Schools

The Government of Zambia through the Ministry of Education (MoE) has been pursuing collective action to improve infrastructure. The Government's aspirations of Education and Millennium Development Goal (MDG) were incorporated in the vision 2030, which was operationalized through the fifth and the current Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP). The Ministry of Education Policy on Educating Our Future (EOF) recognizes the fact that good health and nutrition is an essential pre-requisite for effective learning. The School Health Nutrition (SHN) policy is an elaboration of the chapter on educational areas of special concern contained in the Ministries' policy on School personal and environment health. The general objective of SHN policy is to improve and provide equitable services in learning institutions, through integrated health and nutrition interventions, in collaboration with the community and other partners.

The Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH) in 2007 launched the National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (2006-2015). Later the Sanitation and Hygiene Component was developed in order to assist the MDG of halving the number of people without access to adequate sanitation by 2015, and to achieve universal sanitation coverage by 2030, as is the goal set in Zambia's Vision 2030 (GRZ, 2009). These documents have sections that specifically address school sanitation and hygiene promotion.
The Public Health (Drainage and Latrine) Regulations makes it mandatory for any owner or occupier of schools to provide proper and sufficient latrine accommodation for girls and boys. The Ministry of Education Standards, Assessment and Evaluation Guidelines from 2001 state that 8 hand basins should be provided for the first 100 pupils and 3 hand basins for the next 50 pupils (GRZ, 2009).

These guidelines are formulated to help all implementers to understand and use the SHN strategies in line with SHN policy. Many actors involved in school WASH currently do not adhere to MoE standards and regulations.

The government of Zambia declared July as school health month in order to set a springboard for enhanced sensitization on health and nutrition in schools. The districts countrywide have formed multi-sectoral teams that implement school health month activities, monitor progress, capture lessons, challenges and suggest possible solutions.

The MoE 2010 infrastructure operational plan has 2,019 new classroom blocks to accommodate 90,540 and only 297 double VIP latrines. This plan also includes 369 teachers' houses and 361 single latrines. The Department of Infrastructure Development have established various designs that range from water closets (including ablution blocks) to VIP latrines for school toilets that range from $5,000 to $187,500.

UNICEF is one of Zambia's key strategic partners in school WASH programs. The Zambia UNICEF country office is working in partnership with MoE and MLGH to improve water and sanitation in 500 schools in 20 districts. The activities include the provision of new or improved water points at schools, provision of child friendly and gender sensitive sanitation facilities, promotion of hygienic practices and behaviors, improved Operation and Maintenance (O&M), support for improved micro-environment at the schools, and establishing broad inter-sectoral partnerships so as to ensure life skills development of school children.

Other actors involved in WASH in Schools include USAID, Plan international, GTZ,DANIDA, MLGH and Ministry of Water and energy development. All the above mentioned actors are contributing to development of sanitary facilities and working towards standardization of WASH in schools through the Task force on school WASH coordinated by MoE.

Quality and Coverage of WASH in Schools Programming

The Government's Educational Statistical Bulletin 2004 indicates that more than 25% of basic schools do not have access to safe water supply (borehole-piped, borehole-pump, piped water and protected well), and of the 9,564 sanitary facilities (flush toilets and latrines) in these schools, 87.5% consist of pit latrines and the rest are flush toilets. Pit latrines range from high quality to makeshift latrines consisting of stick and mud floors over pits of uncertain depth with flimsy enclosures made of sticks and grass and brick enclosures reinforced with concrete slabs over the pits, but lack ventilation and deep foundations to the bottom of the pit. There is almost an equal number of sanitary facilities for boys and for girls. The ratio of pupils per toilet is generally high, reaching 90 pupils per toilet in some of the schools, way beyond the MoE standards of 1:40 for boys and 1:25 for girls. Hand washing facilities are few even in schools that have been built recently (USAID 2010). Currently MoE construction plans have no sanitary facilities included, MoE will have to revisit the same schools and add this component at a later stage. The general water and sanitation situation in school do not meet the Public Health Regulations, Requirements for School toilets.

Reference Materials

Wins Country Profile
Investigating Perceptions and Barriers to Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM)


  • Limited resources available under existing UNICEF school latrine construction budget (7,000) per school poses a challenge to meeting the adequacy and working within the government policy framework and standards of MoE.
  • Limited funding to MoE water and sanitation infrastructure development component is a major challenge given the huge water and sanitation requirements in schools countrywide.
  • In rural areas, a large proportion of the classrooms — possibly as many as 20% of the total number — are temporary mud and grass structures. Almost half the rural schools do not have their own source of safe drinking water, while urban schools have grown well beyond their planned size, but without any commensurate increase in sanitary facilities. These factors affect the public perception of schools and what they have to offer. They also affect the ability of the schools to provide quality education.
  • Poor operation & maintenance of toilets and water sources is a major threat to sustaining WASH in Schools. In Zambia there is a challenge on the community's sense of ownership versus the government's free education policy for all basic schools. Many communities still feel little or no responsibility towards the school’s O&M as it is regarded as the Government's responsibility.
  • Rekindling the sense of responsibility, particularly in impoverished rural areas, to redirect responsibility regarding O&M in WASH issues to rest with families and with the wider community in which families live through community partnerships is a serious challenge that needs urgent attention. The other aspect of this challenge is harmonization of the community's sense of ownership strategies for the local schools and fostering of interest in the maintenance of school water and sanitation facilities amidst the free education pronouncement by government and MLGH community contribution policy that needs to be harmonized.
  • Coordination of WASH in Schools by MoE through the National School WASH Steering committee is a major priority area, which UNICEF will be pursuing closely, through various partners regarding policy influencing and advocacy in order to enhance institutional capacity for the MoE to deliver School WASH programmes.
  • Insufficient focus on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in schools, strong cultural connections to MHM coupled with limited capacities of teachers to deal with menstrual issues, and inadequate IEC materials on menstruation hygiene is a challenge for many of the girls.
  • Sustaining improved hygiene practices in school WASH is a major challenge .This entails promoting sustained toilet use, hand washing with soap at critical times,menstrual hygiene management and safe handling of water.These 4 key areas of critical behavioral change need to be monitored closely with adequate communication strategies clearly defined and developed for use by all actors in the school WASH sector.
  • Lack of written guidelines from MOE regarding standards on construction designs and plans that can help to reduce variations and improve quality of WASH infrastructure being constructed by various actors.
  • Lack of continuous supply of water to school sanitary facilities to enhance hand washing and maintenance of sanitary facilities. Solar pumps must be considered at low cost and appropriate technology ($5000-$10000) to enhance continuous supply of water for hand washing, cleaning of sanitary facilities and sustained usage.

Organizations Working in Wash in Schools

Plan International


Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH), GTZ ,DANIDA