Level: Country, subnational and community

T7 UNICEF-BANA2014-01620-Mawa


What is WASH in Schools?

WASH in Schools refers to water, sanitation and hygiene education and washing facilities in schools. The ‘WHO/UNICEF Guideline on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Standards for Schools in Low-cost Settings’ describes the standard for WASH in Schools as follows:

" A school with adequate WASH has a functional and reliable water system that provides sufficient water for all the school’s needs, especially for handwashing and drinking. The school must also have a sufficient number of toilet facilities for students and teachers that are private, safe, and clean and gender segregated. The school should have several handwashing facilities, including some that are close to toilets to facilitate handwashing after defecation. Facilities should cater to the needs of the entire student body, including small children, girls of menstruation age and children with disabilities. Hygiene education should be included in the school curriculum to instil good hygiene, sanitation and water-handling practices, and students should be encouraged to transmit hygiene knowledge to their families and communities."


Why WASH in Schools?

WASH in Schools has a significant positive impact on child health and on education outcomes. Safe, adequate water and sanitation facilities in schools, coupled with hygiene education:

  • reduces the incidence of diarrhoea and other hygiene related diseases;
  • can have a significant impact on school enrolment, girl/boy enrolment ratios, absenteeism, and school performance;
  • can influence the hygiene practices of the children’s parents and siblings as children act as agents of change in their households and communities.

UNICEF’s ‘Raising Even More Clean Hands’ report notes that WASH in Schools creates a cycle of opportunity.


Figure: WASH in Schools: a cycle of opportunity 

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Source: Raising Even More Clean Hands: Advancing Health, Learning and Equity through WASH in Schools, UNICEF, 2012, p. 6.


The challenge

However, as noted in the ‘WASH in Schools Monitoring Package’, in UNICEF’s 60 priority WASH countries, for example, fewer than half the schools have adequate water and sanitation facilities. In reality the situation is almost certainly worse: monitoring data is limited, often of poor quality, and often doesn’t take into account the functionality of facilities or key basic standards, such as separate toilets for girls and boys.

UNICEF’s ‘Raising Even More Clean Hands report notes that of the surveys of low-income countries with available data, almost half of all schools do not have access to WASH facilities.


Figure: WASH in schools coverage 

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Source: UNICEF, ‘Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Annual Report’, 2011


Points of Action

‘Even More Clean Hands’ identifies six points of action for WASH in Schools.

1. Set minimum standards for WASH in Schools

Adopt national, regional and local standards for WASH in Schools, based on UNICEF-World Health Organization guidelines. The minimum standards for WASH in Schools should be specific to each context. These standards should be the basis for national action plans that aim to reach all schools within a concrete time frame and should allow for gradual improvements to facilities and hygiene practices.

2. Monitor WASH in Schools coverage through Education Management Information Systems (EMISs)

Advocate for the inclusion of WASH in Schools indicators in EMIS. Analyse data annually and use the findings for advocacy and better resource allocation. Support the compilation of data on coverage and practices at the global level to attract attention and funding to WASH in Schools.

3. Engage with at-scale WASH in Schools programmes

Contribute to the bigger picture by bringing individual or small-scale projects into cooperative initiatives that effectively reach more schools. Gradual improvements to facilities and hygiene practices require less investment in operation and maintenance and can be sustained with local resources. Steady progress is key to establishing sustainable, at-scale programmes for WASH in Schools. These programmes include budget lines for capital improvements, operation and maintenance of WASH facilities, and recurrent costs, such as purchases of soap and materials for personal cleansing.

4. Involve multiple stakeholders to support WASH in Schools programmes

Community members, civil society advocates, members of the media, students, school staff, local and regional authorities, non-governmental organizations, faith-based groups, public–private partnerships, and ministries of education, water, health and finance, as well as donors, can all support planning and action for WASH in Schools.

5. Contribute evidence to the impact of WASH in Schools programmes

Local and global academic communities have expertise that can support the design of WASH in Schools programmes and chart their impact. Generating and sharing evidence will provide WASH in Schools advocates with a powerful tool to attract attention and funding to the sector.

6. Raise the profile of WASH in Schools programmes

Adapt global and regional publications, advocacy materials and knowledge for the local context and disseminate them widely. Encourage members of the community to participate in customizing global WASH in Schools experiences to local settings. The process can begin with translating ‘Raising Even More Clean Hands’ into multiple languages. Local organizations can join the advocacy by endorsing a customized publication with their logos.


WASH in Schools Monitoring Package

The ‘WASH in Schools Monitoring Package’ was developed as a tool to promote and guide WASH in Schools monitoring initiatives at national, subnational and project/community levels.

Component modules

The package is comprised of three modules. Note: Text to describe the package has been used directly from the ‘WASH in Schools Monitoring Package’ (2011) itself.

  • The EMIS module: a set of basic monitoring questions on WASH in Schools to be incorporated into national Education Monitoring Information Systems (EMIS), usually administered annually.
  • The survey module: a more comprehensive set of questions, observations and focus group discussion guidelines for use in national WASH in Schools surveys as well as for subnational, project level or thematic surveys.
  • The children’s monitoring module: a teacher’s guide and tool set for the monitoring of WASH in Schools by students, including observation checklists, survey questions and special monitoring exercises.


Table: The three modules can be used in different ways at different levels

National level
Subnational/Provincial level
Project/Community monitoring
EMIS module
As an integral component of national EMIS (main intended use)
Can be modified for use as a questionnaire for school principals to supplement other monitoring efforts
Survey module
As a national baseline, and for cross-checking of EMIS results
For district and project baselines and periodic progress monitoring
Children’s monitoring module
Parts of the module can be incorporated into thematic studies that include surveys conducted by children
As part of ongoing WASH in Schools projects (main intended use)

Source: See UNICEF, ‘WASH in Schools Monitoring Package’, April 2011


Use of data

Data from the monitoring tools in this package have many uses at the global, national, subnational, project/community and school levels.

In many countries, the most urgent need is for basic national-level data on WASH coverage, ideally gathered annually through the national EMIS. With this kid of basic data, UNICEF and partners can effectively advocate for WASH in Schools, and governments can make informed choices on policy and resource allocation. As countries begin to compile basic data sets, the global picture will also become clearer, with implications for funding allocation decisions at the regional and global levels.

More comprehensive data on WASH in Schools – such as the data that can be gathered through the survey module – is needed for establishing baselines, for tracking progress, for determining accountability, for evaluating project effectiveness, for learning and advocacy, and to inform planning, resource allocation and policy development. For example, detailed data on the functionality of WASH facilities can influence decisions on budgeting for operation and maintenance, while data on project progress can lead to adjustment in the design of national guidelines and standards.

The tools in both the survey module and the children’s monitoring module are designed to evaluate the knowledge and opinions of children and will help policy makers and managers to analyse the success of programmes in meeting the needs of beneficiaries.

EMIS module

While surveys and studies have their place, only a national routine monitoring system can provide periodic and consistent data on the status and progress of WASH in Schools.

The most appropriate, cost effective and sustainable institutional home for any routine WASH in Schools monitoring system is within the monitoring department or unit in the Ministry of Education (and/or other ministries responsible for education).

The questions in the EMIS module are designed specifically to be included as a module within existing national EMIS. Where this isn’t possible, the module may be administered as a stand-alone questionnaire.

The module includes a set of core questions and a set of supplementary questions for countries where there is interest among education officials to have a larger set of WASH in Schools questions in the EMIS questionnaire (see pages 16–31 of UNICEF’s ‘Wash in Schools Monitoring Package’, April 2011).


Part 1: School information (includes contextually relevant demographic school data)

Part 2: Water

  • Indicator (core questions): a functional water point is available at or near the school.
  • Indicator (core plus expanded questions): a functional water point is available at or near the school that provides a sufficient quantity of water for the needs of school, is safe for drinking, and is accessible to children with disabilities.

Part 3: Sanitation

  • Indicators (core questions): the number of functional toilets and urinals for girls, boys and teachers that meet national standards.
  • Indicator (core plus expanded questions): the number of functional toilets and urinals for girls, boys and teachers that meet national standards and are accessible to children with disabilities.

Part 4: Hygiene

  • Indicator (core questions): functional handwashing facilities and soap (or ash) are available for girls and boys in the school, and hygiene is taught.

Part 5: Waste Disposal

  • Indicator (core questions): solid waste and sludge is regularly disposed of.

Survey module 

The survey module (see pages 33–61 of UNICEF’s ‘Wash in Schools Monitoring Package’, April 2011) is designed to address a larger set of indicators at a greater level of detail than the EMIS questionnaire. To do this, it uses more questions, adds observations, and provides the option of using focus group discussions to explore particular subjects in more depth.

This module consists of a set of instruments designed to form the basis of national and subnational surveys on WASH in Schools. Such surveys will provide a comprehensive set of data for establishing a baseline for use in programme design and policy formulation and for informing advocacy and resource allocation decisions.

Conducted periodically, these surveys can also be used as a quality assurance system to assess the quality of data from the EMIS monitoring mechanism.

This survey module can also be used to develop systematic baselines for WASH in Schools projects and to conduct periodic progress monitoring.

The questions, observation checklists and focus group discussion tools can also be used to help design special surveys on specific thematic areas or more intensive general studies in smaller geographic areas.

Unlike the EMIS questions, which are designed to be completed by school principals, the tools in the survey mode are administered by surveyors who have a background in the WASH sector (and/or have been trained to administer the survey).

Children’s monitoring module

There are various methods and tools for involving children in WASH in Schools monitoring (see pages 63–88 of UNICEF’s ‘Wash in Schools Monitoring Package’, April 2011). This module provides detailed guides and examples for two key tools – observation checklists and child-to-child discussion guides – as well as suggestions for additional tools, such as school mapping and transects walks.

Resources for monitoring WASH in Schools

There are a range of excellent resources for monitoring WASH in Schools, including: