African EduWeek 2014: Expert Interview with Justin Lupele

lupele_justin_2013_200x220 An interview with Dr. Justin Lupele, Chief of Party, WASH Project in Zambia.  He is part of an  expert panel at the upcoming 2014 African EduWeek on “Educating in today’s social and  economic climate: Best approaches for educational challenges.”  This interview first appeared on the African EduWeek 2014 website here.

1)    Please can you give us some background on your organisation and your role? SPLASH is a five-year USAID-funded project that aims to reach 246,000 primary school pupils in four districts of Eastern Province, Zambia (Mambwe, Chipata, Lundazi, and Chadiza). SPLASH is implemented by WASHplus, which is managed by FHI 360 as a prime and CARE as a sub-grantee. The project works within the Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training, and Early Education (MESVTEE) and other line ministries such as Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH) and Ministry of Health (MOH). SPLASH’s overall objective is to sustainably improve access to safe water, adequate sanitation, hygiene information and health practices to improve learning environments and educational performance in basic schools.  The overall objective will be achieved by means of the following five key task areas:

  1. Install and rehabilitate improved WASH infrastructure in schools using a service-delivery framework
  2. Improve hygiene behaviors and health of learners and teachers and subsequently their communities
  3. Strengthen local governance and coordination of WASH in Schools through the involvement of multiple stakeholders
  4. Engage those who set policies at the national, provincial, and district levels to support WASH in Schools
  5. Strengthen the capacity of small-scale service providers and the private sector to deliver WASH goods and services on a sustainable basis.

I am the Chief of Party/Project Director.

2)    What education focused projects are you involved in that you are particularly excited about? The project is involved in hygiene education. I am particularly interested in menstrual hygiene management education. Through this programme we are enabling hundreds of girl children that have reached puberty to attend class as we encourage the provision of sanitary towels and washrooms for girls to manage their menses and continue to attend classes.

3)    What in your view are the main challenges in education in Africa? The main challenge of education in Africa is the low investment by most countries. The national budgets on education are very low – in most cases less than 20% of the total budget. Deployment of qualified teachers, often trained at the country’s expense is another challenge. In the efforts of reducing wage bills, trained teachers are not being employed. This results in having schools that are managed by untrained teachers. HIV/AIDS has also contributed to the attrition of teachers.

4)    What surprises you about your work? I am surprised at my work that ministries of education in Africa and other discussions around quality of education do not tackle water and sanitation as one of the factors that contribute to education quality.

5)    You are part of an expert panel on socio-economic issues in the education at African EduWeek.  What will be your message at EduWeek this year? My message will be to urge participants and governments in Africa to look at education quality holistically and to invest in water, sanitation and hygiene education. 6)    What are you most looking forward to at African EduWeek? I am looking forward to learning from others, insights on how to improve learner attendance, especially girl children in rural Africa, and ways of lobbying governments to increase funding to education.

Postcard from Montana


sarah fry thumbnailA postcard from “Sustaining the Blue Planet” Conference 2014, Big Sky, Montana

Montana is not a usual spot for international WASH and development folks to congregate.  Usually it’s Dakar or The Hague.  But here we are from Nigeria, China, Laos, India and many U.S. states, to talk about integrating water and WASH literacy into the classrooms of the world.

The WASH in Schools global community set a challenge for itself this year to attend and present at conferences sponsored by the education sector to highlight WASH as a critical element of quality education.  Integration of WASH and Education has special challenges that stem from different visions.  Education wants children to stay in school and learn; WASH wants to prevent diarrheal disease in small children; and WASH in Schools wants to keep schoolchildren healthy.  The key to effective integration of WASH and Education is to meld the two visions into one shared one that everyone can support:  assuring a clean and safe school environment and healthy habits that keep children in school, able to learn and grow into well-educated, healthy and economically secure adults.

Project WET is a pioneer in this, and their annual conference is heavily attended by education professionals.   Honoring the commitment to be present at education events, the WASHplus project (funded by USAID) sent me to this conference to share our experience from the SPLASH (Schools Promoting Learning and Achievement  through Sanitation and Hygiene) project that we are implementing in Zambia and to talk about how we are integrating WASH into the Zambian educational system.  Yesterday our talk described how WASH integration is occurring in two streams, by:

1) creating opportunities to learn (OTL) through WASH (improving educational outcomes) and

2) creating opportunities to learn about WASH (improving life skills and forming hygiene habits).

Usually WASH in Schools makes us think of building nice latrines and tippy taps for hand washing.  In fact, we have found that weaving WASH into the education sector is a complex job that presents many opportunities worth seizing.  The education sector identifies nine “OTL”s of which five are influenced by WASH improvements.  An example of opportunities to learn would be student and teacher attendance, which can be affected by the presence or absence of improved, gender segregated toilets and safe drinking water.  More WASH-related obstacles to learning that present opportunities when fixed are lack of places and means for hygienic managing of menstruation and also hand washing, and schoolyards that are unsafe and unsavory due to nearby open defecation practices.

WASH in Schools also creates opportunities for the pupils, teachers and the nearby community to learn about the importance of using latrines, drinking safe water and practicing hygiene, hopefully leading to lifelong good habits.   SPLASH uses SLTS (school-led total sanitation) to help the school community along the path to becoming WASH friendly.  SPLASH also builds WASH into the official teacher in-service training system where the teachers themselves can develop classroom activities that fold WASH themes into history, language, math, science and other subjects.  This is what most of the participants at this conference are actively doing – finding innovative ways to support teachers to teach the next generation of leaders and managers about water conservation, battling invasive species, engineering challenges and using the latest technologies to solve challenges, just as examples.

The setting here in Montana is breathtaking and our hosts are quick to point out the state’s abundant natural resources and its commitment to preserving them.  One participant took the theme “Sustaining the Blue Planet” to a stratospheric level last night…literally!  Astronaut and conservation advocate Richard Arnold shared his stunning photos and moving video clips taken by himself from the International Space Station, showing us the glory and the fragility of our shared blue home, another thing that educators and WASH practitioners can bond over.

Author: Sarah Fry is a Senior Hygiene and School WASH Advisor with the USAID funded WASHplus Project. She is the WASHplus point person for integration of WASH and Education, manages the USAID-funded SPLASH program in Zambia and an urban hygiene improvement program in Benin.  Sarah has been working in WASH since her Peace Corps days in Benin.  She has a MPH from UNC/Chapel Hill.

Its not just a day, its a menstravaganza!

On Wednesday June 4, the WASHplus project celebrated Menstrual Hygiene Day at FHI 360 with a special screening of award winning documentary Menstrual Man. The event was sponsored by WASHplus/USAID, CARE, Save the Children, Plan International, WASH Advocates, and FHI 360. Over 100 people came together to celebrate the menstravaganza.

We kicked the menstravaganza off with opening remarks from Sarah Fry, WASH in Schools Technical Advisor for WASHplus. Sarah introduced the partners and sponsors who made the menstravaganza happen.

Sarah also spoke briefly but  passionately about the importance of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) for keeping girls in school during their menses. MHM is an important component of the SPLASH project which Sarah works on. SPLASH which stands for Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene, recently developed a toolkit “Menstrual Hygiene Management Mini-Toolbox for Teachers and Schools in Zambia” designed to help classroom and guidance teachers in Zambian primary schools who are carrying out menstrual hygiene management (MHM) programs or activities in their school.  SPLASH is offering various kinds of support to teachers to help set up MHM programs and facilities to help keep girls and female teachers in school in Zambia.

We topped the evening off with inspiring discussion and dialogue for the integration of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) into global and national policies, programs and projects. Attendees shared stories and learned from others about opportunities to integrate MHM into school, HIV, disability, emergency and workplace settings. We heard about about how to get started and how to “keep it going”… and saw a range of menstrual hygiene products and programs.

Next, we watched the funny, uplifting, inspiring film “Menstrual Man” – about one man’s personal odyssey to make affordable sanitary pads for poor women and girls in India. Inspired by Menstrual Man,viewers posted messages on a word wall, telling us why menstruation matters to them! Attendees also pledged to support and celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day not just on May 28 each year, but every day by advocating for improved menstrual hygiene management for girls and women everywhere.

See photos and videos from the menstravaganza below:

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MHM toolbox


Check out the Menstrual Man trailer below.

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Let Kids Learn

Bringing WASH to classrooms, turning a cycle of poor health, interrupted learning and gender inequity into a cycle of opportunity.

Poor water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) lead to poor health. Poor health keeps kids out of school, and when kids miss class, they can’t learn. FHI 360 and CARE, in partnership with USAID and the Ministry of Education in Zambia, are bringing WASH to classrooms, turning a cycle of poor health, interrupted learning and gender inequity into a cycle of opportunity.

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Clean water, adequate sanitation and proper hygiene require appropriate facilities and an awareness of good practices. SPLASH is a five-year project started in 2011 funded by USAID Zambia to reach more than 240,300 primary school pupils in three districts of the Eastern Province (Chipata, Lundazi, Mambwe and Chadiza). SPLASH aims to improve pupils’ health, learning and performance by increasing their access to safe water and adequate sanitation and improving their hygiene and health practices at school and at home

Through the SPLASH partnership under WASHplus, CARE International supports the construction of boreholes and sanitation facilities, while FHI 360 supports teacher training and curriculum development. Local ministries, nongovernmental organizations and communities take it from there.


Theresa J.V. Ngoma, District Education Board Secretary, Mambwe


Patricia Mitti Mazonga, Head Teacher, Mambwe


Margaret Phiri Mapata, District Resource Center Coordinator, Chipata


A solid infrastructure provides a foundation for lifelong healthy habits to take root. Schools form WASH clubs for students and WASH committees for parents and community members.

Manda Esaya E., Teacher, School WASH Coordinator, Lundazi


WASH clubs and committees engage students and community members through skits, songs, dances, poems and prayer.

Jennifer Jere, WASH Club member, Mambwe


Good menstrual hygiene management is critical to keeping girls in school all month long. Equipped with new washrooms for girls, the schools have also taken steps to prevent teasing and ensure a comfortable environment for menstruating students.

Solomon Mwanza, Head Teacher, Lundazi


Small doable actions are simple steps that people can take to improve WASH.

Learn more.