Our data reveal strong evidence to support the premise that pupils can serve as agents of change for WASH by disseminating information from school to the household.
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions in low-income settings often assume that pupils can disseminate information and catalyse change at home, yet this assumption has not been rigorously assessed. We used qualitative research methods in two phases to assess the potential for children to be change agents in five schools in rural Zambia.
Phase 1 included role-play and focus group discussions among pupils on their percieved ability to serve as change agents. Children were then given ‘homework’ that included information on health messages and on how to build a handwashing station, and were encouraged to engage their family.
In Phase 2, we conducted separate focus group discussions with pupils and mothers on their experiences with the ‘homework’. We found that, in general, pupils were enthusiastic about engaging with parents—typically male heads of household—and were successful at building handwashing stations.
Mothers reported high levels of trust in children to relay health information learned at school. Pupils were able to enact small changes to behaviour, but not larger infrastructure changes, such as construction of latrines. Pupils are capable of communicating knowledge and behaviours to family members; however, discrete activities and guidance are required.