Adventures in Teaching CE1: A Hygiene Project

So my last post focused mostly on the problem of open defecation. After having a lovely chat with my mom, I decided to make this a new project.

I did a hygiene sensibilisation (awareness session) with piment (powdered hot pepper). The piment represents germs. If I put piment on my hands and then shake another person’s hand, they will have piment on their hands too. This helps illustrate germ theory. The kids can see and smell the piment which makes the idea of germs more tangible. For example, one way to get infected with germs is to touch mucous membranes. Trust me, the kids don’t want to touch their eyes if they have piment on their hands.

We also went over important hygiene vocabulary in French, L’assainissement (sanitation) le latrine, (the latrine), les microbes (germs), le savon (soap) et l’eau courante (running water).

We also created a mantra for the class:

Je fais le caca au WC, je ne fait pas le caca au champs. Je pisse au WC, je ne pisse pas au champs.

Translation: I fraz in the WC, I don’t fraz in the field. I pee in the WC, I don’t pee in the fields

I also installed a handwashing station made from a 20L bidon at the school with soap.


I also try and enforce good hygiene habits for the other students. Anytime I see another student defecating  somewhere other than the WC, I embarrass them and tell them to go to the latrine right away. Generally they are so ashamed that they just stop and run back to class.

The last part of the behavior change is a hygiene chart. The students get a star every time they go to the latrine and wash their hands. They also get a “bang” (A Burkinabe hand clap as a form of positive reinforcement) and a piece of candy! If they get 10 stars, they get a special surprise from America.ImageSo far the system is working pretty well. The kids are getting very competitive and trying to out-hygiene each other. They also try to go right before recess or Lunch, or multiple times a day within 30 minutes when they clearly are not sick. (Generally they never go to the bathroom more than once according to my observations of other classes).


2 responses to “Adventures in Teaching CE1: A Hygiene Project

  1. linda marcuccilli

    hi sara;
    what a great accomplishment!! you go, giri!!!!

  2. The impact simple hand washing can have is amazing. (Medical professionals in America could use a few lessons as well… just read that professionals only wash their hands about 50% of the time when seeing a patient.) An amusing aside… I had to break my male students in Liberia from standing outside and peeing on the wall so they could continue to listen in on the lessons through the window. I admired the dedication, but…

    Good post.

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