UNICEF distributes 4,000 story books to schools in Guadalcanal

Grade five student girls at Titinge primary school having their first read and said that the books are even interesting enough for older age children. Photo: Supplied/UNICEF SI

Students aged 6-12 years old in around 50 schools in Guadalcanal province will be able to effectively learn basic hygiene practices especially hand washing following the handing over of the story books to the Ministry of Education and Human Resources (MEHRD) and Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS).

The story books which promote hand-washing were handed over by UNICEF on the 31st of March.

UNICEF in a statement says, the story books are part of an ongoing hand washing campaign in 14 schools in Guadalcanal province and Honiara City Council led by the MHMS with support from UNICEF and the government of Australia.

“Distribution will extend to another 42 schools recently selected for the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) in Schools project, funded by the government of New Zealand and implanted through UNICEF in partnership with MERHD and MHMS.”

Mamita Thakkar (centre left) handing over the story books to Dr. Franco Rodie Permanent Secretary for MERHD with Acting Health Promotion Director Ben Rickie (left) and Methoda Ifuimae ( right). Photo: Supplied/UNICEF SI

Speaking at the handing over ceremony at Titinge Primary School, UNICEF WASH Specialist Mamita Thakkar acknowledged the European Union for the funding support that enabled the development and printing of the 4,000 copies which will now be available in these schools to help children learn and practice good hygiene habits of hand washing with soap.

“This simple act of hand washing with soap can greatly reduce our chances of getting sick with diarrhoea by about 50 percent and this is important for us in Solomon Islands as we have experienced frequent outbreaks of diarrhoea in recent years.

“The most recent was in early 2016 with over 20 deaths and thousands reportedly sick with diarrhoea during that period,” she said.

She also highlighted that the handing over and distribution of the books was timely, given that World Water Day (WWD) falls in the month of March and many countries around the world celebrated it on March 22 every year.

“Therefore let us take this opportunity to also remind ourselves about the importance of water to our health.

“With this I want to encourage all of us to ensure we drink clean and safe water, constantly practice hand washing with water and soap and use water to ensure our toilets are always clean.”

Dr Franco Rodie PS for MERHD having a quick read of the story books together with students from Titinge primary school. Photo: Supplied/UNICEF SI

Permanent Secretary of MEHRD Dr Franco Rodie upon receiving the books acknowledged the support of UNICEF for leading and funding the development and printing of the story books.

“The books will greatly contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the health and learning outcomes of students,” he said.

“My ministry is very pleased to have contributed to the development of these books through our literature team ensuring that while students learn basic hygiene practices they will also be able to read well and understand English, the official language used in higher levels of education.

“Therefore they are crucial in preparing our children for the years to come in school,” he added.

He urged teachers and parents to work together in promoting reading and English speaking among young children in school as well as at home because this will greatly help them in their academic performances.

Methoda Ifuimae, Acting Supervisor for Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and Ben Rickie Acting Director for Health Promotion, Ministry of Health and Medical Services also shared similar sentiments in thanking UNICEF for the support and highlighting the importance of the story books.

Group photo after the handing over ceremony. Photo: Supplied/UNICEF SI

“The books have undergone a thorough process of revision and pretesting by various stakeholders, school children as well as the literacy team at the Ministry of Education and what we are seeing today is the product of great time, commitment and efforts by all those involved in the entire process,” said Mr Rickie.

“We are grateful for the story books and will continue to work with partners like UNICEF and other government ministries such as MERHD to develop more of these materials for our children to help them live a healthy and better live both in school and at home,” said Mrs Ifuimae.

The story books are in two sets, each comprising of four story books – two books for children aged 6-9 years old in pictorial format and the other two books for children aged 9 – 12 years old in comic format.