Meeting teachers and Heads of schools throughout Ngamiland during our distribution of “The Coronavirus Survival Kit for the family” has provided a welcome opportunity for Coaching Conservation to promote our “We Are All Connected” campaign. Creating such personal relationships can lead to a better understanding of our mission and often helps promote willingness to embrace challenges in the future. It can also help identify community needs, as it did with Mathiba I Memorial Primary School in Sedia ward, Maun.
After Mathiba Primary School expressed concern that few students reported they were washing their hands after using the toilets, we conducted questionnaires in 3 classes: Standard 2, standard 4 (lower primary) and standard 6 (upper primary), with an average of 30 students in each class. We found that the 2 lower primary classes knew significantly fewer COVID-19 facts and information, whereas the upper primary seemed better versed and more aware of the facts.
However, the majority of students (83%) in the three classes did know how to wash their hands and for how long. Knowing this made it clear that the issue was not how or when to wash your hands but accessibility of the taps, as the students did not have a wash station anywhere near the toilets. The nearest tap to the toilet was at least 50m away from the toilets and the students all agreed it was tedious and not encouraging for the taps to be so far away. Sometimes they find themselves getting distracted and forget to wash their hands.
We knew that using “nudges” has proved to be effective in promoting behavioral change elsewhere, as a study carried out in Bangladesh showed that hand washing with soap rose from 4% to 74% in 6 weeks after handwashing stations were built in visible, easy‐to‐reach locations, with brightly-colored paths leading from toilets to the handwashing station, and footprints and handprints painted on the path and around the hand-washing station. We copied this scheme and used colourful slabs which were painted with encouraging messages leading from the school toilets to a newly constructed tippy tap and washing basin station. We will return at the end of the school term for a follow up to evaluate the intervention impact.
The newly formed relationship with Mathiba school head and its staff has proved to be worthwhile for both CC and Mathiba School. We are in a position where we have created constructive rapport and hope this will help promote the reintroduction of Coaching Conservation’s programmes in Botswana when interactions with the students are possible once more. For now, the students are happy washing their hands at their new hand washing station and have begun absorbing our Respect messages, linking their own personal hygiene with respect for themselves and other people around them!