Empress Mentewab School
Teaching the children to have a healthy lifestyle is an important function of the school. Kate hopes that the good habits of personal hygiene the pupils develop in school will be carried back into their homes, and influence the way their families live.
In 2010, Dr Tadesse and a team of health officers from Debark visited Empress Mentewab School to carry out medical check-ups of the schoolchildren and their families. See the ARCHIVES for more information.
There is a small health centre in Dib Bahir and in future Kate plans to arrange annual check-ups for the schoolchildren with the health worker at the centre.
HANDWASHING, PIT LATRINES AND SHOWERS
To prevent disease transmission, there are very strict handwashing rules at the school. All children wash their hands on arrival and again before having their morning snack. If they have played outside (in the sandpit or with the play equipment), they wash their hands before coming into the classroom for lessons or watching television.
The children also wash their hands after "going to the toilet", although there are not yet pit latrines at the school - the children are sent to the far side of the meadow outside the school to "do their business". When the school has the funds, pit latrines will be built in accordance with the requirements of the Amhara State's Standard of Education for primary schools:
Teachers' Toilets - two pit holes for male teachers and two pit holes for female teachers
Children's Toilets - eight pit holes for males and eight pit holes for females
(each pit hole is in its own cubicle)
There is no tap yet, so a hosepipe brings water from Kate's tap at home to fill a water barrel at the school. Kate's husband, Asenake, always supervises the children's handwashing, dispensing liquid soap sent by an English supporter. When ten children have lined up to wash their hands, taking a dollop of liquid soap from a bottle is much quicker and more hygienic than using a bar of soap.
When water is rationed late in the dry season, waste water from handwashing is used to water flowers, shrubs and trees at the school.
There are currently no shower facilities at the school. When water is available and the pressure is sufficient, Asenake directs the hosepipe at the sandpit. All the children in a class strip off their clothes and rush to the sandpit to have a shower together using body wash and shampoo sent by the same English supporter who sends the liquid soap for handwashing. This activity is carried out with many shrieks and much laughter!
Ethiopian children are more accustomed than Western children to nudity because many family members live together in close proximity, often in a single room. However, as soon as sufficient funds are available - and before the children are much older - separate shower facilities for girls and boys will be built.
The reason the sandpit is used for showers is to prevent the children's playground becoming muddy, messy and slippy. Also, keeping the sandpit damp makes sand play more fun because it is possible for the children to build sandcastles and to make sand pies. Asenake waters the playground in the evenings to encourage grass to grow which will reduce the amount of dust rising up when the playground is in use.
"When Empress Mentewab School was located in Gondar, all schoolchildren showered every morning before changing into their school uniform," explains Kate. "While they were in school, a laundress washed their clothes and hung them out to dry, ready for the children to change back into them after school. The pupils had their own school towels with their names embroidered on them; the towels and school uniforms were laundered on Saturdays."
Kate hopes it won't be long before she can establish this routine at Dib Bahir, but first the school needs to have sufficient funds to cover the cost of heating water, buying washing powder, and paying the laundress's wage.
The children’s nails are often extremely long and dirty, so a routine task Kate undertakes every two weeks is to clip the fingernails of every child in the school. Ethiopians traditionally eat with their hands, so short, clean nails reduce the likelihood of ingesting worm eggs. Short nails also guard against eye injuries during play.
Kate would like to encourage parents to cut their own children's fingernails at home. If you can help by sending nail-clippers to be given to each schoolchild's family, please see key  doesn't existGIVE for instructions on posting gifts.
Each semester Kate dispenses free of charge to the children's guardians Mebendazole chewable tablets for de-worming. Mebendazole is effective against roundworms and hookworms. In the image below, the water bottle is a large one (1.5 litres). The larger roundworm was excreted by a girl in Infants; the smaller roundworm (to the left of the large one) by a boy in Infants.
The wearing of Footwear is essential because of the risk of picking up hookworms, which enter a child’s bare feet, travel through the body and attach themselves to the wall of the gut, causing weakness and anaemia.
Nutritional supplements are important for the schoolchildren because their home diet is very limited, varying only with the seasons, and many of them are stunted. For young children, it is a time of intensive growth and their bodies have an increased requirement for vitamins to ensure healthy development.
Kate can buy Calvitalis Syrup, imported from the United Arab Emirates, in Gondar. It has nine vitamins plus calcium.
In Debark she can buy Mixavit Syrup, also imported from the UAE, but it has only eight vitamins and no minerals.
An English supporter has sent Optima Junior Multi Plus teddy-bear-shaped tablets. These have ten vitamins with folic acid and zinc. They taste delicious and the children love them.
The advantage of using multi-vitamin tablets rather than syrup is that there is no washing up afterwards. Using one spoon per child means that there are 40 spoons to be washed daily, adding to Kate's workload.
Training in toothbrushing is done with the help of DentAid educational posters. Grade 1s brush their teeth every day after their morning snack using toothbrushes and toothpaste sent by supporters. Soon Kate plans to have the Playgroup and Infants classes doing the same.