The JMP Post-2015 indicators on WASH in schools are a step in the right direction

The JMP Post-2015 Working Groups have proposed targets and indicators for WASH in schools to be included in future global monitoring of water, sanitation and hygiene. Have they got it right or should they start again from scratch? Overall, most participants in an e-debate on this topic think that they did get it right, but that the indicators still needed refining to make them really useful and easy to monitor.

The JMP Post-2015 Working Groups have published a “Draft Long List of Goal Target and Indicator Options for Future Global Monitoring of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene”. The working groups on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene have each included targets and indicators for WASH in schools. Are these indicators a step a step in the right direction? That was the topic of the first of three e-debates inspired by questions asked during the implementation of the SWASH+ Project, an action-research school WASH project in Kenya.

The first e-debate inspired an exciting discussion with a variety of interesting opinions. Overall, most of the respondents stated that they did find the JMP Post-2015 have got the WASH in schools draft indicators correct. However, the indicators still needed refining to make them really useful and easy to monitor.

The results of this first e-debate were submitted as an input for the public consultation of the JMP Post-2015 Working Groups, which ended on September 20.

Below is a summary overview in the bulletin format from both sides of the e-debate.

Yes, they are

  • The lack of WASH in schools indicators in the 2015 MDGs may have led to a lack of attention and funding. Without adequate indicators and data, it has been difficult to make appropriate policy decisions by national governments to prioritize WASH in schools. We need to continue to build our efforts not only in empirical scientific evidence but also in our practical know-how around WASH in schools.
  • Clearly, the proposed list will need to be paired down, however, the proposed indicators on WASH in schools by the JMP Post-2015 Working groups address the multi-dimensionality of WASH access – reliability, sustainability, safety – that were lacking in previous versions.
  • There is a strong equity component missing from the 2015 MDGs, which led to the world “achieving” the water target, even when the poor were mostly excluded from access.
  • Collection of the Post-2015 WASH and WASH in schools indicators will focus attention on health and development aspects of improved WASH and help target funding towards sustainable, safe, and affordable access by donors and governments.
  • Clearly the list of indicators is too long at the moment. The final indicators, like the 2015 MDG targets, will need to be simple and monitor-able.
  • These indicators will exist basically to create political will and spur increased investment. A reasonable proxy for this would be to include perhaps one simple metric for water, sanitation and hygiene services each plus one metric on investment levels (perhaps an amount/pupil/year?) that can spur funding allocation decisions.
  • The WASH Activities should be included as a specific goal, under which WASH in Schools might be included as a sub-goal.

No, they are not

  • Schools are part of society, schools are part of the community … how can we expect that all schools have access to water and sanitation when the surrounding community hasn´t and is not expected to do so under the proposed Post-2015 goals? And there are other issues. (1) How can we reliably measure so many indicators? (2) What about teachers? Aren´t they the ones who have to make this happen, teach about hygiene, supervise that toilets are properly used, taps do not waste water and that children wash their hands when they are told to do so. Why do they not get separate toilets, a place to use when they work long school days with 2-3 shifts? Or get some recognition about their role. (3) Has it been proven that more girls come to school when there are places for menstrual hygiene?
  • We have to be realistic in putting the targets. If not, we will chase for something that cannot be achieved. This will lead to disappointment and disbelieve in change and ultimately to cynical visions on improvement. For that I would urge to have a new look at the indicators making them realistic and doable!
  • The indicators will only tell us how much resources have been mobilised, and how many facilities have been built. They will not tell us much about the quality of the facilities as they are used, and therefore, I have to vote that the proposed indicators do not take learners and teachers forward very much.
  • The Service Delivery Approach that is developed by IRC, and can be easily adapted to school WASH – this has 4 criteria of access, durability, usability and environment. Schools have many demands – toilets being only one of them. Many parents find it strange that partners can invest thousands of dollars on school toilets when classrooms are dilapidated, there are no desks, no books etc, so we also have to have a bit of proportion when we are designing and investing in school WASH. Quite a challenge!
  • WASH sector should fully focus on WASH at the community/household level and hence set only targets for household/communities. WASH in Schools issues need to be tackled by the Education Sector as part of Quality Education/Child Friendly Schools etc.Without the Education Sector taking the lead, it isn’t going to be sustainable. So WASH in Schools targets should be part of the Education Sector targets. And because children are part of homes, communities and schools, the WASH Sector and Education Sector should coordinate their efforts AND targets, so indeed improvements at household/community level and in schools go hand in hand.
  • WASH and the Education Sector must collaborate on defining WASH in Schools indicators. However, moving (all of) the targets to the Education Sector may not be practical. First, the actual provision of water and sanitation services is a responsibility of the service provider, who generally provides these services to domestic, institutional and business customers. Secondly, the human right to water and sanitation also extends to schools. Schools can be made responsible for the plumbing side of things (toilets, washstand installation and maintenance) but water supply and waste removal lie with service providers.

View all of the contributions to the e-debate on

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s