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WASH from the START: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education in Preschool

  • Judith T. WagnerEmail author
  • Ingrid Pramling Samuelsson
Original Article

Abstract

Framed by a social practice perspective, this article presents a theoretical, political, and practical rationale for implementing and expanding water, sanitation and hygiene education (WASH) in preschools throughout the world. Every day thousands of young children die, while others suffer serious illness or stunting from water-, sanitation-, and hygiene-related causes. Many of these consequences could be prevented with low-cost interventions. Although there is little peer-reviewed research on preschool WASH, justifications and ideas for action can be found in the results of WASH studies in primary schools. Pre-primary education and WASH are priorities within the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2015–2030. Numerous materials and methods from school-based WASH can be used or adapted for preschool. However, early childhood and WASH professionals and advocates must launch preschool initiatives and also advocate for incorporation of WASH curricula into pre-service and in-service teacher education. More research needs to be conducted on outcomes of WASH-focused experiences in preschool. Advocacy actions with governments, UNICEF, NGOs, and other organizations can ensure that aspirations and good intentions for WASH initiatives are realized, but such progress will require adequate funding.

Keywords

WASH Preschool Early childhood Child health Handwashing Hygiene Sanitation 

Résumé

Dans le cadre d’une perspective de pratique sociale, cet article présente l’argumentaire théorique, politique et pratique pour la mise en œuvre et l’expansion de l’éducation sur l’eau, l’assainissement et l’hygiène (WASH, ‘Water, Sanitation and Hygiene’) dans les écoles maternelles du monde entier. Chaque jour, des milliers de jeunes enfants meurent, tandis que d’autres souffrent de maladies graves ou de retards de croissance pour des causes liées à l’eau, à l’assainissement et à l’hygiène. Des interventions peu coûteuses pourraient prévenir bon nombre de ces conséquences. Il y a peu de recherches évaluées par les pairs sur WASH en éducation des jeunes enfants, mais on peut trouver des justifications et des idées d’action dans les résultats d’études sur WASH dans des écoles primaires. L’éducation préscolaire et WASH constituent des priorités parmi les objectifs mondiaux de développement durable (ODD) de 2015–2030. Beaucoup de matériel et de méthodes de WASH à l’école peuvent être utilisés ou adaptés à l’éducation préscolaire. Toutefois, les professionnels et défenseurs de l’enfance et de WASH doivent lancer des initiatives préscolaires et promouvoir l’intégration des programmes WASH dans la formation initiale et continue des enseignants. Il faut plus de recherches sur les retombées des expériences axées sur WASH à l’éducation préscolaire. Les actions de plaidoyer auprès des gouvernements, de l’UNICEF, des ONG et d’autres organisations peuvent faire en sorte que les aspirations et les bonnes intentions des initiatives WASH se concrétisent, mais ce progrès exigera un financement adéquat.

Resumen

En el marco de una perspectiva de práctica social, el presente artículo discute un esquema teórico, político y práctico para la implementación y expansión de la educación sobre el agua, la salubridad y la higiene (WASH por su abreviatura en inglés) en escuelas pre-escolares en todo el mundo. Cada día, miles de niños mueren mientras otros padecen serias enfermedades o limitaciones debido a causas relacionadas con problemas de salubridad, higiene o contaminación del agua. Muchas de estas consecuencias podrían prevenirse con intervenciones de bajo costo. Aunque existen pocas investigaciones revisadas por la comunidad científica sobre el modelo WASH en escuelas pre-escolares, los resultados de estudios WASH en escuelas de primaria justifican y ofrecen ideas para tomar acción en ese sentido. La educación pre-escolar y el modelo WASH se consideran prioridad en los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible (ODS) de 2015–2030. Una variedad de materiales y métodos del método WASH en la escuela pueden utilizarse y adaptarse para la educación pre-escolar. Sin embargo, los profesionales y promotores de la educación infantil y el modelo WASH deben promover iniciativas pre-escolares y recomendar la incorporación del currículo WASH en la educación inicial y permanente del profesorado. Se requiere más investigación sobre los resultados de experiencias enfocadas en el método WASH en la escuela pre-escolar. Las acciones de apoyo de gobiernos, UNICEF, ONGs y otras organizaciones pueden garantizar que las aspiraciones y buenas intenciones de las iniciativas WASH se conviertan en realidad; sin embargo, tal progreso requerirá financiación adecuada.

Notes

Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge past and present members of UNICEF’s WASH and Early Childhood Development units for their expertise, guidance, and support; OMEP’s WASH Working Group for their commitment and tenacity year after year; OMEP practitioners around the world for giving WASH a try; and the preschool children who have enthusiastically participated in WASH, often offering ideas for additional activities to promote sustainability and peace through water, sanitation, and hygiene education.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Emerita Professor, Department of Education and Child Development, The Broadoaks Laboratory/Demonstration SchoolWhittier CollegeWhittierUSA
  2. 2.Department of Education, Communication and LearningGothenburg UniversityGothenburgSweden

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