In Tunisia, youth unemployment is rife. To help combat this issue, education is key, particularly for vulnerable young people. However, the lack of basic washing facilities in many schools in rural areas in Tunisia, is greatly impacting pupils’ studies. This, alongside poor hygiene practices has led to the spread of harmful diseases such as hepatitis – and has sparked particular alarm during the Covid-19 pandemic.
To make matters worse, poorly planned infrastructure in schools has meant that many washing and toilet facilities are used by boys and girls. Some girls have been subject to sexual violence and abuse as a result, leaving parents afraid to send their daughters to school.
All of these issues have led to almost 100,000 young people dropping out of school without any qualifications, making it difficult to find work.
Islamic Relief is working with schools to help them run sessions promoting good hygiene practices. We are also equipping them with the hygiene facilities they desperately need, which will benefit 75,000 students in rural schools. In addition we will providing female students with hygiene and dignity items and ensuring they have segregated washing facilities. To help improve pupils’ education, we are building school libraries.
Focusing on the importance of good hygiene
Islamic Relief's work has already transformed students' attitudes and behaviour towards health and hygiene. Hajar, a sixth grade student, took part in an Islamic Relief health club at her school.
"At my school, the sanitary units were not good and there were no health procedures. People did not care about hygiene. Very few of us washed our hands," says Hajar.
The health club taught students the importance of personal hygiene and hand-washing, with a particular focus on measures to help combat the spread of Covid-19.
"Now our situation has changed and there is better hygiene awareness. I learned how to take responsibility for my hygiene and I now urge other students to apply the health practices we learned, for example, social distancing. I also urge students to practice good hygiene and wear face masks because of the pandemic," says Hajar.
Islamic Relief staff have empowered school teachers to run the health clubs for themselves.
"The health club run by our teacher has had a great impact on us. We received training, learned new things, organised plays, and conducted awareness campaigns for young people. We plan to put posters up at break times and distribute information to raise awareness of social distancing during this pandemic. I will benefit from this, and so will many others," adds Hajar.
Creating better schools
In addition, Islamic Relief renovated some of the school's facilities.
"In the winter, the rain came through the ceilings. Some of the windows were broken and we were getting sick. We were afraid that the ceiling would fall on us and someone could get injured. The sanitary units were in an indescribable condition. I used to be afraid of them and of the insects in there. Now the sanitary units are wonderful and are being cleaned regularly, so I am no longer afraid. The condition of the halls has improved, the classrooms have been renewed and we feel more comfortable," says Zahraa, a pupil at Elghabat Kassrine School.
"I give special thanks to Islamic Relief on behalf of the educational staff. I think the changes that have been made to the school are the most beautiful thing that has ever been done, especially since the school is overcrowded, with over 600 students", says Naela, the school's headteacher.
"As educational staff, we want these behaviours to stick. The students will pass them on to the rest of their classmates... I believe that these health clubs should continue in every institution because they develop the students' abilities and establishes new behaviours.
"When the children found clean toilets, equipped withsoap, and saw the school cleaners constantly cleaning, I noticed a great change. At first, changing their mindset was difficult, but little by little, and in coordination with the health club, came new behaviours. In the past, the students used to write on the walls and destroy the facilities, but now they have changed", she says.
Through the project, Islamic Relief hopes to improve pupils' learning experience and their attitude towards school even more, to help ensure they have a brighter future.
Islamic Relief has been providing essential support to vulnerable Tunisians since 2011. Donate now to support Islamic Relief's life-changing work around the world.