Inspired to be a sanitation professional: Kennedy’s story
Sanergy, in partnership with WASH United, has been on a mission to promote hygiene and sanitation in schools. In particular, our teams work with school leaders to devise innovative ways through which students can learn, practice and internalize basic hygiene practices such as hand washing and proper toilet use.
This month, in honor of Global Handwashing Day, we visit Vision Day Care and Primary School to catch up with 13-year-old Kennedy Musyoka — the school’s head boy. He told us about the lessons he has learnt about hygiene and the impact proper hygiene has had on his life and his family.
Musyoka lives in Pipeline estate, an area on the outskirts of Mukuru Kwa Njenga, and is the oldest of three children. Since childhood, Musyoka has learned to become a leader by taking care of his siblings, walking them to school and even ensuring they have finished eating their food. “These tasks have taught me how to become a responsible young man,” he says. This leadership experience earned him a nomination as the school’s head boy earlier this year.
At home, Musyoka has never experienced poor sanitation; his family has always had a flush toilet inside their house, making it even easier to access at all times. However, in school, it was a different story all together. “When I joined Vision School, we had four pit latrines serving students and teachers. The toilets were always smelling, and whenever a student needed to use them, they had to take off their sweater, so they did not carry the toilet stench with them back to the classroom,” recalls Musyoka. With no other option, Musyoka and the other students had to contend with the dirty toilets until five Fresh Life Toilets were installed in January this year and the pit latrines were phased out.
Musyoka vividly recalls his surprise when he saw and used the Fresh Life Toilets for the first time. They were unique facilities, and Musyoka was struck by the lack of smell from the toilets. However, the students learned how to use the Fresh Life Toilets properly from the Fresh Life Team and their teachers.
“Since we began using Fresh Life Toilets, we have learnt about the importance of good hygiene and cleanliness practices,” says Musyoka. “For instance, we now understand hygiene-related illnesses such as cholera and diarrhea and how to prevent ourselves from contracting them.”
Hand washing after toilet use and before eating any food has become routine at Vision School, and as the head boy, Musyoka has contributed to this achievement. With help from teachers Margaret and Ruth, Musyoka always reminds students to clean their hands frequently. “During break when my peers are having their snacks, I am always keen to remind them to wash their hands before partaking. I even lead by example,” he says, adding that his position as head boy makes him a voice of authority that students will often listen to. At home, it is no different. Musyoka has taught his siblings the steps to thorough hand washing, and it is now part of their routine.
Promoting hygiene and sanitation have become favorite topics of discussion for Musyoka. He is an active participant of his school’s debate club in which students discuss sanitation and hygiene.
Musyoka is grateful that, at his school, the Fresh Life team and the teachers have invested in good hygiene and sanitation and that these lessons are reiterated through a variety of different media, including debates, health lessons, and hygiene-themed learning murals, to ensure students are continually learning about hygiene and promoting it not just in school but at home, too.
“I am inspired by the work our teachers do in training us on hygiene, and I desire to impart such knowledge to people in the future, as I have already started to do with my peers here,” he says.
Musyoka’s dream career is to spearhead projects that improve the well-being of community members, such as sustainable sanitation initiatives.
October 15 is Global Handwashing Day, a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of hand washing with soap and clean water as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.