Improving schools through action and policy change

Since 2010, WSUP’s school programme in Mozambique has improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conditions in 16 primary schools in Maputo. Tens of thousands of children and their local communities have benefitted from new facilities and hygiene campaigns in an effort that has led to policy change.

In 2021, the Maputo Municipality approved a new “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy for Maputo City Primary Schools”, for the period of 2021-2031, a document supported by WSUP and inspired by its work in schools in the previous decade. 

The Strategy defines the minimum standards the 101 schools in Maputo ought to achieve by 2031, in water, sanitation and hygiene. In the specific area of sanitation, a specific attention is dedicated to female students and their particular needs.

“The school must have separate sanitation blocks according to gender, with at least a comfortable space for Menstrual Hygiene (MH) at the girls/women’s toilets (with privacy, water available and space to deposit used pads)”, says the document, which also highlights the needs of people with disabilities. Each school in Maputo will eventually have to provide, according to the Strategy, “[…] at least one unisex space for disabled people with limited mobility”.

“This is a result of the work initiated by WSUP”, explains Dinis Namburete, WSUP’s Community Development Specialist in Mozambique, who has been leading the project since its very first intervention in 2010. “It includes a diagnosis of the situation in the 101 schools of the city and the actions that need to be taken to improve it.”


WSUP’s work with schools in Mozambique started with one of the city’s largest and most central schools

“My parents had the opportunity to learn about the importance of hygiene with the campaign.”

WSUP’s work with schools in Mozambique started with one of the city’s largest and most central schools, the FPLM Primary School – named after the People’s Forces for the Liberation of Mozambique, which evolved into the country’s Armed Forces. “The school had very serious issues with its lavatories”, says the then Director of the FPLM school, Armindo Lissai. “When they [WSUP] decided to intervene in some schools, they looked at which ones were most in need of intervention. And our school was deemed eligible.”

Having been a student at the school before WSUP’s intervention, Dércia da Cruz remembers how challenging FPLM’s facilities was for the children at the time. “We were kids, and we would enter the lavatory and find a lake of wee, so we entered walking on our hills in those days”, she says.

According to Armindo Lissai, the problems at FPLM went beyond the actual conditions of the sanitation blocks, including also regular floods due to a poor drainage system in the premises. WSUP’s intervention started with the most urgent tasks, such as unblocking and replacing some of the toilets and painting the sanitation blocks. The team also fixed the flooding issues, by building a better drainage structure.

“Every year we used to have to repair the wall in the back of the school”, says Mr Lissai, referring to the structure that was constantly hit  by rainwater during the rainy season.

“After WSUP’s intervention, since 2010 we never had to repair the wall, as the new sumps are able to absorb the rainwater.” The work in the school left the community protected from floods and, most important, with much improved toilets. “We managed to have humanised lavatories, thanks to the WSUP project.”

The hygiene campaigns also had a lasting legacy, not only in the school but also in the local community. Besides being a student, Dércia was a neighbour of FPLM and remembers how the WSUP’s messages were embraced by local residents. “They [the community] acquired a greater awareness with regard to hygiene”, she says. “My parents had the opportunity to learn about the importance of hygiene with the campaign.”