March 21, 2020 “My Health Is In My Hands!”

“My Health Is In My Hands!”

Cartoon Characters Help School Kids Take Responsibility As BFI Consolidates WinS Project in Edo State, Nigeria

My health is in my hands!” Primary school children declare in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria.

From Evbuotubu Primary school, Ugiagbe Primary school to Dayspring Nursery, Primary, Junior and Senior secondary schools respectively, (all in Evbuotubu, a flood prone community in Egor Local Government Area of Edo State, Nigeria), the slogan was the same. “My health is in my hands”, school kids declared as the BFI WinSproject is making them catch on how to take responsibility for their own health and wellness in school and at home as a good way to securing their future despite the prevailing poor environmental learning conditions they were daily being subjected to due to annual flooding, environmental degradation and government neglect which has made WASH emergency higher in the area.

The Beautiful Feet International (BFI) team of media and development specialists, in collaboration with Horizon International, through a seed grant from The Pollination Project (TPP) and the kind support of individual friends of BFI – a faith-based organization, is currently offering WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) education outreach materials to schools in flood-prone areas of the country as an intervention. Working together with local educators, the media service of BFI is currently visiting some schools in selected communities in Edo State, engaging with schoolchildren on free health and wellness education and distributing for free WASH4All comic books and other info-graphics aimed at teaching schoolchildren the importance of clean water, good hygiene, and improved sanitation practices that will ultimately reduce the prevalence of water-borne childhood illnesses.

The ongoing school-to-school youth engagement health and wellness outreach and distribution of free copies of WASH4All comics by the Beautiful Feet International (BFI) kicked off on Friday, October 14, 2016, as part of activities to mark the world Hand Washing Day 2016; it is an innovative educational program by BFI aimed at promoting access to clean water and improvement in sanitation and hygiene in local schools.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 2.4 to 2.6 billion individuals worldwide currently lack access to clean water and sanitation facilities. In Sub-Saharan Africa the lack of access to clean water and sanitation has resulted in an unprecedented rate of childhood death and disease, with current regional estimates indicating that one child dies every minute from water-borne illnesses, especially malaria.

Francis Odupute, BFI’s team leader with pupils at Evbuotubu Primary School…

The choice of Evbuotubu Primary School and Ugiagbe Primary School as the first port of call for this exercise by the BFI media service was strategic: it was the WASH challenges in these public primary schools that prompted the media research and investigative journalism reports in the Nigerian media by Francis Odupute, BFI’s team leader, which finally resulted in the conception and production of the first edition of the WASH4All comic book series by Horizon International and the MediaBFI. The flooding situation at the Evbuotubu Primary School has entered its 19th year as community sources say. Year after year the schoolchildren learn under mosquito-infested environment. Their entire school premises have been overtaken by flood and bushes. The school buildings are gradually submerged in flood water. They have no access to drinking water, no functional latrine. The negative impact of the WASH situation on the health, psychology, self-esteem of these children at Evbuotubu primary school, and indeed the overall intellectual development and academic output/ effectiveness of both teachers and pupils has remained a source of concern to many child development advocates; the BFI WinS project is only a creative education strategy employed by Francis Odupute and his team to engage with the schoolchildren directly and possibly proffer temporary measure to mitigate the worsening WASH situation at Evbuotubu Primary School particularly, until tangible help comes to the school from the government of Edo State to permanently arrest the situation.

Background stories on the Evbuotubu Primary School flooding problems and environmental challenges in the community can be accessed online;;

Dr. Toyin Faboya, explaining some health tips to students at Dayspring Schools during the WinS outreach.

The special comic book, WASH4All comics, 1st of a planned 13 editions in the series, is titled. “Schoolchildren Battle Malaria and other Diseases” and has been offered for free download worldwide since September 16, 2014, by Horizon International and MediaBFI. However, because most of the real targets of the comics are grassroots schoolchildren who don’t have access to the internet, it became very necessary to make print copies of the comics available for free to these set of audience in selected local schools where WASH need is the highest anywhere in the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In a local context, using the comic books as visual teaching aids, the BFI WinS project coordinator, Francis U. Odupute and his team of health/creative education volunteers graphically explained various health and environment-related issues children needed to know both in school and at home so as to stay healthy and learn properly. Some of the issues addressed in each school visited by the MediaBFI team included: what personal hygiene means; the importance of sanitation in the school; how you can defy the flooding to keep your classes and school clean; how malaria is contacted and how you can prevent malaria; why you should watch your hands regularly with soap; how to properly wash your hands with soap; puberty, menstruation and sexuality, what you should know; how to be responsible for your health and wellness; etc.

Daysprings students display their WASH4All comic books as Mrs. Sophia Odupute lectures them on cleanliness

After the health talk in each school, there were questions and answers sessions; some children asked personal health questions while others just wanted more clarifications on certain terms used during the health talks. All the children were happy for the information they received, especially for the free comics. The pupils and students were encouraged by MediaBFI to form WASH clubs in their schools in order to put to practice all they learnt about improving the WASH situations in their school environments, and also as a way to attract future visitations and support from the BFI team and or other like minds to their schools.

The school teachers also collected copies of the free comics for themselves as adult participants, as they were expected to keep drumming into the ears of the pupils the lessons learnt from the health outreach as well as possibly help organize the children into thriving WASH clubs that could trigger paradigm shifts in the young minds and result in a culture of cleanliness and environmental friendliness in their schools.

School heads and teachers of all schools so far visited thanked the BFI team and the sponsors of the project, and asked for more of such visits in the future.

Francis Odupute, BFI team leader, leading primary school pupils in role plays during the WinS health outreach to Evbuotubu Primary School in Benin City

So far, the BFI WASH in Schools (BFI WinS) project has successfully fostered educative dialogue between the organizers and many schoolchildren, enlightened many children and answered some major questions they have about WASH, puberty/sexuality and other related health issues affecting young people in Nigeria – all within the prism of edutainment and graphic humour. It has also enabled the organizers to interface with teachers, school heads and other relevant authorizes/stakeholders some of who shed some lights on how to make the project succeed better and make more impact in a sustainable way.

The project was originally christened “WASH@Schools Project” by MediaBFI, but recently changed to “WinS (WASH in School) Project” as a way to align with similar efforts by the Unicef’s global networks and efforts on the matter.

The BFI WinS project phase 1 continues till December, 2017, with the hope of engaging at least 10,000 Nigerian schoolchildren to be very informed and equipped to take proactive steps to improving their personal WASH cultures, starting from their school environments, in the spirit of securing their future, health wise. Meanwhile, the second edition of WASH4All comics series is being planned for production soon by MediaBFI and Horizon International and other partners.

THANKS TO THE SPONSORS! A cross section of Evbuotubu Primary School pupils (as well as their Ugiagbe counterparts, not shown here) flaunting their free WASH4All comics at the event.

VOTE OF THANKS: The Headmistress of Ugiagbe Primary School, Evbuotubu, on behalf of her school and the Evbuotubu Primary School head, staff and pupils, appreciates the humanitarian efforts and benevolence of the BFI team, after the exercise on Friday, October 14, 2016, marking the world Hand Washing Day.

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