Minister wants Wash policy to reach all schools

Education

MINISTER for National Planning and Monitoring Richard Maru has announced that PNG’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (Wash) Policy 2015-30 targets education institutions’ access to Wash services to reach 100 per cent by 2030.
Maru said to accelerate development efforts to reach the target, the government is focusing or targeting boarding schools as a matter of urgency.
“Given the grim scenario at these schools where there is a general lack of Wash services leading to high levels of absenteeism, especially for young girls, the Government is now looking to address this gap which has implications on the socioeconomic future of PNG,” he said.
Maru said this is more critical given that a lot of PNG’s secondary boarding schools are based in rural areas with inadequate or no access to safe, convenient and sustainable WaSH services. The fact that the current EU-Unicef Wash in Schools (Wins) is focused on primary schools and that most of the Education Department’s Wash standards outlined in the Wins Policy and Standards for Wash 2018-23 are related to boarding schools, justifies the push by Government to focus on rural based secondary boarding schools.
“The National Education Plan 2015-19 (NEP) on the other hand estimates that there are more than 11,000 educational institutions and around 1.9 million pupils who are taught by almost 52,000 teachers,” he said.
“This is a significant percentage of the population that can be reached to accelerate interventions in the sector to reach the 100 per cent target set out in the WaSH policy 2015-30.”
Maru said that boarding schools often lacked a menstrual hygiene management system leading to girls staying away when they have their period.
There have been incidences of outbreaks of waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid which often leads to schools’ closure, drop in academic results and high numbers of absenteeism, he said.
Maru pointed out that the NEP set out the following Wash-related targets: toilet-pupil ratio 1:25 for girls and 1:40 for boys, 70 per cent of students to have access to functional water facilities and 70 per cent of educational institutions have handwashing facilities (running water and soap).
Most of these targets can only be achieved if Government can address Wash services delivery challenges in secondary boarding schools, most of which are rural based.

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