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Keeping Kids Healthy

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How Teachers in Ghana and Mozambique Are Teaching Handwashing to Save Lives

Glover stands outside a home and washes his hands using a jug suspended from a crossbeam. He carefully scrubs his hands, showing the right way to remove viruses and bacteria thoroughly. When he’s done, he holds up his newly scrubbed hands, showing them off to a family nearby. Glover has done this over thirty times already with other families, and he’s not finished yet. That’s because he’s just helped install a “tippy tap” handwashing station for the family and is showing them how to use it to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Glover is a teacher in his hometown of Abor, in the Volta Region, where more than half of homes lack running water. That makes it difficult for families to use preventative handwashing to limit the spread of COVID-19. Over 46,000 people in Ghana have already been infected with COVID-19, and the rush is on to prevent it spreading in the impoverished countryside where health infrastructure is non-existent.

Only 62% of homes in Ghana’s Volta region have running water, a vital component for the preventative handwashing that stops COVID-19.
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Glover is a Right To Play-trained teacher who works in rural Ghana. Since school closures began, he has been helping students learn at home, installing tippy-taps, and teaching families preventative handwashing.

The difficulties in accessing clean, safe water aren’t the only difficulties Volta residents face in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Rumours and false information are also a challenge.

“Residents in the communities I visited told me they do not believe that coronavirus is killing people in Ghana and across the world. They thought it was an attempt by politicians to make money from the already poor citizens,” Glover says.

Even amongst those who do believe there is a virus, false information about miracle cures and prevention methods, like that drinking alcohol prevents COVID-19, is spreading. As a teacher, Glover felt a responsibility to help confront these rumours, and help the families of his students stay safe.

“I wanted to build taps in the homes I visited because of the lack of awareness among residents about the coronavirus,” Glover says.

Glover’s one of over 250 teachers in rural Ghana that Right To Play is collaborating with. We are helping them share accurate information about COVID-19 and show their neighbours best practices for handwashing and social distancing to “flatten the curve” in Ghana. Thanks to Glover and teachers like him, we have reached more than 14,000 people in Ghana with life-saving information and tippy taps.

Ghana isn’t the only place we’re working with teachers and local families to install tippy-taps. Families in rural Mozambique face similar challenges accessing clean water to protect themselves. We’ve installed tippy-taps in Mozambique that provide over 27,000 families and an additional 120,000 children with safe and sanitary water for handwashing. Just like in Ghana, installation and instruction is led by local teachers who train families on how to use them to protect themselves.

But in both countries, there are many more who need help from teachers like Glover, and you can ensure they receive it.

Everything A Family Needs to Protect Itself

Proper preventative handwashing is one of the most effective tools in preventing the spread of COVID-19. But in rural Ghana, deeply impoverished communities lack running water supplies into their homes. Every drop they use must be hauled by hand from local water sources. It can take over half a litre of water each time to effectively clean a person’s hands. That’s a lot of water (2 kg.) that needs to be carried just to help even a family of four to wash their hands once.

Enter the tippy-tap. These are simple-to-build, patent-free, hygienic handwashing stations designed in the 1980s. They are used extensively throughout the world wherever piped-in water is scarce and can be built using local materials. Instead of half a litre of water, a tippy-tap uses only 40ml, meaning fewer trips and more handwashing capacity at each station.

More 1,200 households in Ghana and over 500 households in Mozambique now have safe, hygienic handwashing stations thanks to Right To Play-supported teachers like Glover.

Since the start of the pandemic, through the efforts of Glover and other teachers, we have assembled tippy-taps that service more than 1,200 households in Ghana and 500 households in Mozambique. Along with household facilities, we have installed more than 600 additional tippy-taps in school yards in Mozambique.

Right To Play also provides support in the form of handwashing kits, which include soap, detergent, and towels to aid in the uptake and use of the taps. Once a tap is installed, teachers like Glover use a play-based training module to teach families how to use and maintain the device.

Glover noticed when first began building the tippy-taps that the greatest barrier for local families was affording the water container for the core the tap – a cost of just 86 cents (USD) each. You can help us cover the cost so that no family is prevented from getting a tippy-tap because of the cost.

“Most of the families I met had issues with money, so I had to buy the materials from my own savings to build them the tippy-taps,” Glover says.

“I saw the joy on their faces when they first used the device,” he says. “Many of the residents came to my house the next day to thank me for reaching out to them.”

“Whenever I go out, I feel proud because I know that I have not just built taps in some homes but I have helped my neighbours to protect themselves from danger,” Glover says. “It’s fulfilling to be a blessing to others.”

Our work in Mozambique and Ghana is part of the Gender Responsive Education and Transformation Project. In 2018, Right To Play launched the Gender Responsive Education and Transformation (GREAT) program with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada. Active in three countries, Ghana, Mozambique and Rwanda, GREAT uses Right To Play's play-based learning approach to remove barriers to education, especially for girls, and to build teacher capacity to improve learning outcomes.