Pakistan: Combining art and cleanliness with elementary schoolchildren

Since 2011, the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR) has built toilets and hand-washing facilities in elementary schools in the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. In February 2018, the schoolchildren had their very first experience of decorating these facilities with tiles on which they had drawn pictures. Shajeha Khan from our Haripur Office in Pakistan reports on the project.

What colors shall I use?
“Come and look!  I drew a wonderful picture using lots of colors!”  On February 8, 2018, the children of Hattar Elementary School located in the Haripur District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province gathered excitedly in the schoolyard. Using 12 different colored crayons, 25 students ranging from third to fifth grade drew pictures on the tiles used for decorating the walls of their toilets and hand-washing facilities. Each student was given a tile (approximately 30 centimeters squared in size) by the AAR staff. Then, in groups of 4 or 5, the students began drawing pictures on their tiles featuring themes such as health, hygiene or cleanliness.
Children excited about drawing pictures on tiles (taken in February 2018)
AAR had undertaken construction and repair of sanitary facilities in many elementary schools, but this was the very first time that the teachers and schoolchildren were involved. After discussing how that could be achieved, AAR decided to let them decorate these facilities themselves.  By introducing this project, AAR hoped that the teachers and schoolchildren would feel attached to the facilities that they helped design and eventually come to take diligent care of them. Not only that, drawing is a lot of fun for the children!

Zainab Grad washing her hands in front of the hand-washing facilities decorated by the schoolchildren.  She says, “Now I wash my hands more thoroughly than I used to before lunch.”
washing her hands in front of the hand-washing facilities decorated by the schoolchildren.  She says, “Now I wash my hands more thoroughly than I used to before lunch.”

   “Which color shall I use?”
   “I’m going to draw trees, because I love green.”
   “I’m going to draw how to get clean water.”
   “Brushing my teeth makes me feel good, so I’ll draw a picture of myself brushing my teeth.”
   “Which color shall I use to draw a picture of dirty hands, yellow or brown?”

 This picture conveys a message, “Let’s plant trees to make our surroundings look beautiful!”
A cloudless sky with a rainbow and a neat house symbolizes the belief that “Cleanliness means the same as reverence for God.”
This picture conveys a message that brushing teeth in a proper way is very important.
The flower arrangement placed on the textbook symbolizes the hope that, by keeping the school and the surroundings clean, everything will go well, and we can hope for a bright future.”

The schoolchildren were put in groups of four and spent an hour and a half drawing these pictures.

Cleanliness is Faith
All the pictures turned out to be excellent because the children had practiced drawing in preparation for this project. My personal favorite is the drawing which shows the 8 steps involved in washing hands: rinse your hands with water, put the soap onto your hands, wash the back and the palm of your hands, wash your fingers, fingernails and wrists, and finally rinse the soap off.By drawing fluffy foam, the child wanted to emphasize the fact that washing hands will keep you from getting sick. Others drew pictures with messages such as “Cut your fingernails”, “Comb your hair” and “Put the rubbish into the litterbox.” One picture said,
   “Cleanliness is half-truth,” which is one of the pillars of the Islamic faith that “you must keep your body clean, the surroundings neat and organize your thoughts”.
In order to prevent a cold or disease, you must follow the instructions for            washing your hands.
 The schoolchildren were put in groups of four and spent an hour and a half drawing these pictures.

 The Fruits of the Project
It is obvious from the photos what this project meant to the teachers and schoolchildren. We could tell from the drawings that the schoolchildren fully understood what we had explained to their parents in the briefing session which was also part of the project. In the summer of 2018, we organised a session for the teachers and parents of this school, explaining the importance and methods of teaching the schoolchildren about health issues. We were incredibly happy to see that what we had explained was all reflected in the pictures that the children drew!
Schoolchildren saying, “By drawing pictures, we were able to review what we had learned in the health campaign, and it was a lot of fun!” “I haven’t had diarrhea ever since I learned about hygiene issues.”
At a photo session. the teachers and the schoolchildren said words of thanks to AAR and supporters: “Thanks to this project, we can now use the toilets in our school and have access to clean water.”

Art classes are rarely found in public schools in Pakistan, so this was the first time for many children to draw a picture in school. Zainab Grad (a third grade student) said, smiling, “I really enjoyed expressing my ideas by drawing. I want to plant trees so that my school and the area surrounding my house looks beautiful. This is what I drew.”  Ms. Shaheen, the principal of the school, also said with joy, “I was pleasantly surprised to see my students being actively involved in this project. It has turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to realize the value of good health and the importance of cleanliness.”

Watching the children drawing their pictures with passion, I could see that the sanitary facilities in this school would be treasured and used with the utmost care. I also drew a picture on one of the tiles with the following message: Hygiene and health are the biggest blessing from God. It means that, if we keep ourselves clean and healthy, we can think and act in a positive way.
Noor Zaman says, “ Since I learned how important it is to keep myself clean, I make it a rule to wash my hands after playing with my friends.”

This project was made possible thanks to your donations and the NGO-related funds provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan.

The profile as of the date of the article

Shajeha Khanan working for the Haripur Office in Pakistan (Right)
Shajeha Khan joined AAR in 2017, hoping to be engaged in a job that would benefit children. She has been involved in projects to raise awareness among local communities about sanitary conditions. Her interests include mountain-climbing and watching adventure documentaries