To raise awareness of the importance of water, sanitation, and hygiene, and to promote actions and behaviours with positive outcomes, the Project WET Foundation, with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Africa Education Initiative, developed a series of hands-on education materials for sub-Saharan African teachers and students. Between November 2007 and September 2009, the materials have been distributed in 14 African countries, reaching more than 30,000 schools, 175,000 teachers, and five million students.

Communication Strategies: 

To launch the project, Project WET hosted a curriculum development workshop in Uganda. This workshop convened 64 teachers and curriculum experts from Eastern African to devise a comprehensive programme for teaching African children about water. Feedback from this workshop assisted in developing and refining the materials for cultural appropriateness, effectiveness, and breadth of applicability.

The project developed a number of interactive materials for use in schools. The Healthy Water, Healthy Habits, Healthy People educator's guide and student activity booklet focus on water sanitation and hygiene issues. Topics touched upon include water treatment, hand-washing, faecal-oral disease transmission, and water source protection. According to the project, all of these topics can be incorporated as part of a broader domestic policy agenda focused on the basic science behind health issues affecting entire communities.

The activities in the educator's guide were designed to be implemented in a classroom setting using commonly available materials. For example, in Healthy Habits, one activity in the educator's guide introduces children to the realities of common transmittable diseases such as typhoid fever, hepatitis A, and cholera through a skit. By the end of the activity, children have learned about the causes, symptoms, and prevention methods for each disease. The student activity booklet, printed and illustrated in full colour, reinforces concepts from the educators guide and is written for students to complete on their own outside the classroom.

A second activity booklet, Water is Life, also printed in full colour, addresses water in a much broader context, teaching the reader about: the water cycle; the scarcity of fresh, clean water; conservation; and the physiological impacts of water. The various components of the water cycle are also presented in a brightly coloured poster using relevant African illustrations and easy-to-follow diagrammes and notations. The poster addresses concepts such as evaporation, transpiration, ground water, and precipitation. It is printed on tear- and wear-resistant paper to facilitate many years of use.

The third activity booklet and poster, Discover the Nile, illustrate the nature and importance of the watershed surrounding the longest river in the world - the Nile River. Both the activity book and the poster emphasise the breadth of the Nile watershed, and convey concepts such as biomes, geographic features, and indigenous animal species. More broadly, these materials illustrate that we all share the same resources regardless of nationality or culture. All materials were produced in French and English.

In addition to producing and distributing materials, a pilot teacher-training programme was implemented in post-conflict Northern Uganda. The training covered all three primary districts and 51 sub-districts. In partnership with the Uganda Ministry of Education and Sports, over 500 teachers were trained. This included a team of ten facilitation leaders identified and trained, who then trained 90 Coordinating Centre Tutors and leaders from the three teachers' colleges in the region. These tutors and leaders then trained over 400 teachers, who used the materials with over 40,000 students.

Development Issues: 

Children, Health, Education.

Key Points: 

Within educational systems, Project WET materials seek to complement existing curricula and are localised to meet community goals. In the United States, Project WET activities have been correlated with most states’ educational standards. Organisers say that the cornerstone of Project WET is its methodology of teaching about water resources through hands-on, investigative, easy-to-use activities. Skills such as teamwork, decision-making, and problem-solving that students develop through these activities help prepare them for the water-resource challenges of this century.

In its activities, Project WET works to empower change by recommending action projects for individuals, classrooms, schools, and businesses. These projects offer opportunities for participants to apply the knowledge acquired in Project WET activities to effect positive change in communities by either educating members or helping address local water-resource issues.

According to the organisers, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that diarrhoea kills around 2.2 million people a year, worldwide. Basic hand-washing could potentially reduce diarrhoea episodes by 30%, or 660,000 people each year. According to the 2008 WHO report, 91% of the estimated 881,000 deaths from malaria were in Africa, and 85% were children under 5 years of age. Education is vital to help reduce deaths from poor hygiene and insufficient preventative measures.

Partner Text: 

Project WET Foundation, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Africa Education Initiative.