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Data for decision making, costs and services of WASH in schools

Published on: 26/01/2016

During SACOSAN VI Splash, BRAC WASH and IRC hosted a side event on data for decision making using schools as an entry point. 

“Better Sanitation, Better Life” was the theme of the SACOSAN VI event held in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 11-13 January 2016.

As there is growing demand for measuring the quality of services, especially in schools, as part of attaining the Sustainable Development Goals, this methodology will help the decision makers to make progress. They get insight into how much they have to spend to get from no service or a below-standard service level to a basic or improved service level, and what data is required at baseline for informed planning and implementation. The basic level indicates if the programme has achieved the national standard and if there is a gap how much has to be invested to bridge that gap.

Ingeborg Krukkert, Snehalatha Mekala and Akramul Islam leading the side event session at SACOSAN VI

Some examples of recent work were presented to give insight into how such a set up works. Kicking off was Splash, an international NGO focusing on providing water, sanitation and hygiene promotion. Snehalatha Mekala gave a presentation describing why and how baseline data had to be collected in Kolkata in consultation with all the stakeholders concerned and how it can be analysed for making decisions in an effective way to implement the programme.

IRC and BRAC presented a study they had conducted in 117 schools from different regions in Bangladesh. This study tried to find an answer to the following question: How much does it cost to provide school children with a basic level of water and sanitation related services? In Bangladesh the basic standard for schools is one toilet per 50 students. BRAC and IRC decided that a basic level of service in schools, which is sustainable, needs to include at a minimum:

  • The number of students per latrine, with separation for boys and girls
  • The safe use of latrines, with water and soap available for hand washing
  • The cleanliness of the latrines and availability of products for regular maintenance
  • The availability of drinking water and safety
  • Faecal waste and wastewater are safely disposed
  • Availability of pads for emergencies and facilities for disposal of used napkins

The study made clear that major aspects that require attention to improve service levels in the schools in the sample are the number of (separate) toilets for girls and boys, how the waste from the toilets is being disposed of and testing the quality of the water being provided to the students. The research also showed that the methodology and criteria need to be improved to give a more realistic picture of the service levels in schools.

Participants at the SACOSAN VI side event

The participants appreciated the presentations and requested to share the data for wider public use so that more organisations can benefit from the methodology. A representative from UNICEF was interested in the Kolkata data as UNICEF can use it in their school WASH programme. A representative of WaterAid wondered if the cost of soap was included, but this was not the case as the schools were organising soap rallies to collect soap. Taking that into account as well as the fact that many schools did not yet have to pay for emptying the septic tanks, the studied costs are really a minimum; the real costs over a longer period of time are even higher.

Another participant was asking what the minimum indicators are that decision makers need to focus on during monitoring to ensure continuous quality of service. Governments need to focus on developing a set of common indicators to be used by all the stakeholders.

One of the participants was questioning the soap drive, if those costs also have to be included in the budget, then this is a substantial burden to the schools, especially when government is not providing enough funds. Another question asked was if training and monitoring costs have been included as these are the most critical for change. It was clarified that it is included in the direct support costs.

At the round off of the session a participant mentioned that the operation and maintenance costs need to be calculated. Schools then need to be informed so that they can incorporate them in their development plans. He also advised Splash and BRAC to lobby with the state and national governments to increase the budget provisions to schools for Operation and Maintenance.

A crucial question asked was about the exit strategy of Splash how do we ensure that the schools will take it forward? Splash is building the capacity of local partners to enable them to make their own contributions to sustain the programme. While the schools in Bangladesh now know, thanks to the BRAC and IRC research, that they need a minimum of US$ 11.4 per student per year to pay for capital and recurrent costs to be able to sustain a basic level of service. And that for each Taka BRAC invested the school has put in 8 Taka (for capital costs) and 2.5 Taka (for recurrent costs). Schools do take ownership and contribute themselves. The initial funds need to come from someone, though, ideally from public finance to have a higher chance of sustaining safe practices rather than from a NGO project with a limited funding space.

Session leaders:

Snehalatha Mekala, SPLASH
Akramul Islam, BRAC WASH
Ingeborg Krukkert, IRC

Authors: Ingeborg Krukkert and Snehalatha Mekala