Primary school teaching material supports water, sanitation, hygiene and health education and promotes healthy behaviour

Anthonj, C. (Speaker), Githinji Sophie (Contributor), Valentina Grossi (Contributor), Christoph Hoeser (Contributor), Stein, A. (Contributor)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are crucial preconditions for human health. Related knowledge and risk perceptions have the potential to motivate healthy behaviours and reduce disease risk. Schools, as platforms for learning and developing WASH habits, with children as multipliers and disseminators of knowledge to their households, are often targeted by WASH and health messaging interventions. However, such interventions are usually disconnected from the school education that the children already receive.

We reviewed primary school teaching material for children in class 1 through 8 (age range of 6-13 years) in order to investigate: (i) how drinking water, sanitation and hygiene issues are represented in school book teaching materials; (ii) which WASH dimensions are addressed; (iii) whether there is a causal chain relating themes to each other and to disease risk; (iv) how WASH and health education relate to the real life WASH provision situation in Kenya; and (v) what potential WASH education holds for health interventions. We screened class 1 – 8 science text books for WASH related and disease risk topics and conducted a detailed content analysis of the themes covered.

Our screening of school books revealed that WASH, environmental hygiene, WASH-related disease risks and transmission pathways and health promotion are addressed substantially in standard science books in Kenya. Children learn about drinking water (transport, quality, treatment, storage, conservation), sanitation (facilities, use, hygiene and behaviour), hygiene (personal, handwashing, food hygiene and storage), environmental hygiene and health promotion (waste management, disease prevention), and disease risk (WASH-related risks, transmission pathways of various communicable diseases). Thus, primary school teaching material supports water, sanitation, hygiene and health education and promotes healthy behaviour.

We will gather your perspectives on the our considered discussion points, including:
1.Causal chain of WASH, disease exposure and prevention in science education
2.Science education versus real situation: Challenges in implementing knowledge
3.What about cultural context, marginalized remote groups and school drop out?
4.Comparison to WASH in school books in other countries
5.Implications for WASH interventions, health programming and messaging
6.Contextualization of our findings with the Covid-19 pandemic
Period26 Sep 2020
Event titleJahrestagung des Arbeitskreis Medizinische Geographie und Geographische Gesundheitsforschung 2020 : „Die Welt während und nach der COVID-19-Pandemie“
Event typeConference
LocationRemagen, Germany
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Behaviour change
  • Public health
  • Health promotion
  • Curriculum
  • Education
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • WASH