The current state of WASH facilities in Indonesian school: Washing hands to safely reopen schools for all

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Hand-wash practice at an Early Childhood Education in Lombok, Indonesia Hand-wash practice at an Early Childhood Education in Lombok, Indonesia

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced more than 68 million Indonesian students out of their classrooms. The Indonesian Government’s new school reopening plan is expected to be implemented in July 2021, given that all teachers and education personnel are vaccinated. In line with the development of school reopening protocols and procedures, there has been increased attention given to the status of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities in Indonesian schools, including toilets and handwashing facilities.

A recent World Bank Policy Note assesses the current situation of WASH facilities, norms, standards, and practices in Indonesian schools.  It discusses policy implications related to the COVID-19 pandemic response and its implications for achieving universal access to basic WASH facilities in schools by 2030, under the Sustainable Development Goals.

Key findings and takeaways

8.2 percent of schools under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology (MoECRT) and 19.6 primary schools under Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) in Indonesia do not have any functional toilets available in the school . In some cases where schools do not have adequate WASH facilities, interviewed principals indicated that students have no choice but to use facilities in houses around their schools’ neighborhood or go to the nearby river to fulfill their needs. Even if toilets are available in schools, not all of them use a gooseneck toilet, which may not be hygienic and safe. The number of toilets available at schools are also often insufficient in fulfilling students’ needs, with more than fifty students on average having to share a single facility. This number is more than twice the international standard of a 25:1 ratio of students to a facility. A lack of gender-segregated toilets is also an issue as more than 25 percent of MoECRT schools nationally do not have gender-segregated toilets. Gender-segregated toilets are important particularly for adolescent girls.

Availability of water and soap also poses a challenge, with 22% of schools under MoECRT lacking access to water sources for sanitation. Furthermore, almost half of schools under MoECRT reported that they had no soap and flowing water. This poses a serious public health concern as regular handwashing with hand soap is critical for the prevention and the spread of disease . While soap is commonly available in local markets, current government regulations do not require soap for school toilets.

Why is this happening? Interview with a selected number of school principals and local government officials offer explanations as below:

  1. School principals are typically unaware of the standards for WASH facilities or do not know how to assess their facilities against standards. There seems to be a gap in principals’ familiarity with the norms for school WASH facilities – as stipulated by MoEC Regulation No. 24/2007 on schools’ facilities and infrastructure standards and MoEC Regulation No. 40/2008 on vocational schools’ facilities and infrastructure standards. None of the 15 principals interviewed were fully aware of the norms. Even though principals regularly assess the conditions of WASH facilities in their schools, they are not able to report on whether their schools meet the prescribed government standards in terms of the required number of facilities and condition.
  2. There is a lack of objective and pragmatic criteria for assessing WASH functionality. The study found that principals tended to say the conditions of WASH facilities are compliant with government standards as long as they do not have any broken or unusable toilets, while external investigators found those were not compliant with the regulations. This finding implies that a much larger proportion of schools may have issues with the functionality of toilets than the official statistics show.
  3. The maintenance of WASH facilities is not well incentivized. Schools are responsible for maintaining their WASH facilities and are provided with an annual per-capita-based School Operational Grant – BOS (Bantuan Operasional Sekolah) which is intended to cover various costs incurred at school level including minor repairs or maintenance of WASH facilities. However, given the limited amount of BOS funds, schools do not commonly allocate funding to expenses related to toilet repair and maintenance, which is usually at the bottom of the priority list.
  4. Inaccurate information for the funding plan. Infrastructure damage calculations are not an easy task for most school staff, and hence not reported properly to request necessary funding for repairs and maintenance.


What can the government do to fill in the gaps?

To respond to the current situation and causes of the situation, the study identified 4 areas of policy gaps and corresponding recommendations. The gaps identified are between: (1) current national regulations and requirements under COVID, (2) written regulations and implementation of them, (3) stipulated standards and school practices, and (4) national regulations and international standards.

The key corresponding recommendations for these four gaps are:

  1. Ensure the availability of handwashing facilities for teachers and students to practice regular handwashing for disease prevention at school. The immediate recommended actions are to (i) supply necessary hand soap; (ii) install handwashing facilities with running water if currently unavailable as well as maintaining soap supply and handwashing facilities; and (iii) maintain consistent messaging on handwashing as a key strategy for COVID-19 prevention.
  2. Ensure planning and budget allocation to comply with the regulations and standards of WASH facilities (at national and subnational levels). Immediate actions would be to (i) consider additional budgets for constructing gender-separated toilets for students and teachers; (ii) develop awareness and training materials to improve diagnosis, planning, and budgeting process for WASH at subnational level; and (iii) provide targeted support to specific geographical areas and private madrasahs that show low performance on key WASH indicators.
  3. Ensure all stakeholders are aware of the standards and follow appropriate practices at school level. Immediate recommended actions to be taken are: (i) provide information and training for all school principals about the standards for WASH facilities and expected hygiene practices and ensure they are well informed about them; (ii) Develop an assessment tool for WASH facilities for principals and provide training in its use; and (iii) introduce a community monitoring and reporting hotline.
  4. Update the national standards to international standards. As an immediate action, review the current policy framework against international standard and update as needed to meet the 1:25 ratio.


You can read the full findings and recommendations here.




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