IWC reviews UNICEF’s Kiribati WASH in Schools program

IWC reviews UNICEF’s Kiribati WASH in Schools program

International WaterCentre (IWC) project officer Diana Gonzalez Botero has recently returned from two weeks in Kiribati where she conducted an external review of the Kiribati Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Schools program.

IWC reviews UNICEF's Kiribati WASH in Schools program

Diana in Kiribati interviewing stakeholders for KWinS

The Kiribati WASH in Schools (KWinS) program is an initiative by UNICEF and Kiribati’s Ministry of Education, funded by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The KWinS program aims to improve access to WASH facilities and WASH knowledge in 32 targeted schools across four outer islands of Kiribati, reaching approximately 4,800 school children over the course of three years.

WASH in Kiribati schools

Kiribati faces several WASH challenges, primarily due to the vulnerable shallow freshwater lens that communities rely on for their domestic water supply. Other factors that contribute to the WASH challenges include generally scarce water resources, climate change, a challenging environment, high population density in some areas, difficult accessibility and high costs of installing and maintaining WASH facilities.

In schools in most of the outer islands adequate sanitation facilities are largely non-existent. As reported in government statistics, only three percent of schools in Kiribati have access to improved sanitation and only two percent to improved water supplies. Students who attend schools that do not have toilets practice open defecation at the beach, nearby bushes or if available, a teacher’s toilet.

A lack of access to safe and healthy learning environments, including adequate WASH services, is a barrier to education for many students in Kiribati. The KWinS program team has worked with the government, the schools’ staff and the wider communities to improve the learning environment for students, through improved WASH facilities and practices in the schools and at home.

Reviewing KWinS

Central to the IWC’s review of the KWinS program is assessing the effects of the program in the target population and the progress made towards achieving the planned outcomes and outputs. The review will capture the learnings from stakeholders to inform an upcoming phase of replication and scale up to reach all the schools in Kiribati with improved WASH facilities, knowledge and practices. The review uses the five OECD DAC evaluation criteria for evaluating development assistance: relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability.

As part of the review, and during my visit to Kiribati, I visited two of the four outer islands that are participating in the program, and have met with and interviewed several stakeholders, including government officials from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, UNICEF team members, the Island Education Coordinators and school principals. I also conducted focus group discussions with the KWinS program steering committee, school teachers, parents and school committee members; knowledge, attitudes and practices surveys with the students and parents; and structured facilities observations in participating schools.

Although it is too early to discuss the findings of the review, so far, the program has demonstrated strong community mobilisation, engagement and ownership components, which have been highlighted by most stakeholders as a crucial factor for the program’s achievements to date. As one stakeholder put it: “The WASH improvements in this school would not have been possible without the support from the community members. They have really helped the school, and they do it for their children, because now they know the advantages of having toilets.”

Likewise, the government officials and divisions consulted are very committed to the program, and have started encouraging and supporting other non-participating islands and schools to take initiative and start WASH programs and awareness in those locations, demonstrating leadership and an uptake of the program, which has been achieved through island knowledge exchange meetings and advocacy and support from UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and Island Councils.

More information

For more information on the IWC’s review of the UNICEF KWinS program in Kiribati please contact:

Diana Gonzalez Botero
WASH Project Officer
T +61 7 3028 7600

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