Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) partners from the Fijian Teachers Association, Fijian Government Ministries, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and civil-society organizations worked energetically over the week to learn to use a tool that will allow them to bypass regular, time-consuming steps in collecting data. From this moment on, WASH partners will no longer rely on pencils to mark responses for a survey, organize tattered papers from the field, nor enter rows of data into a spreadsheet. Instead, they will utilize a phone application called Akvo (which means “Water” in the language Esperanto) in order to administer a survey, plot data points on an interactive map, craft informative analyses, and produce graphs. This all sounds fancy, but what does it mean?
Current data on WASH in schools in Fiji shows that 75% of Fijian schools have available access to WASH facilities such as toilets, hand washing stations, and sanitary disposal bins. However, Fijian students still suffer from hygiene-related diseases such as diarrhoea, lice, trachoma, and scabies. One objective for engaging the Akvo mobile phone app to gather WASH in schools data is to assess the status of schools’ WASH programmes against criteria developed by the government. Based on the schools’ performance, schools will be awarded between 0 to 3 Stars. Through this approach, a particular school’s star level will be determined according to responses to a baseline questionnaire, designed to investigate the schools progress towards the Fiji Minimum Standards for WASH in Schools Infrastructure.
When a questionnaire is submitted through Akvo FLOW, real-time maps of respondent schools’ geo-location, survey responses, current project status, and funding information are immediately produced on the Akvo platform. This information is immediately available for WASH partners to access, presenting a useful opportunity for effective communication and collaboration on WASH projects throughout Fiji, and the world.
In Fiji, WASH partners began the Akvo training on Monday with a lesson on how to download and maneuver the application on smartphones. On Tuesday, the WASH partners worked to understand how surveys are input into the phones and administered, and then finalized a baseline survey to be dispensed the following day to a pilot group of 12 schools in the Nausori District. The team had an awesome day carrying out the surveys during school visits.
“It was fun and inspiring to visit the schools that will directly benefit from these tools. With Akvo, the data gathering process is expedited. The WASH Cluster would like to know what the largest impeding factors that thwart positive hygiene behavior are…why do 75% of Fijian School have available access to WASH facilities, yet students still develop hygiene related diseases? Once we know where the gap exists in the process of utilizing WASH infrastructure to prevent hygiene related diseases, we can design policy and make informed decisions for interventions.”
-Waqa Tikoisvua, Fijian Ministry of Health
Master Aporosa Duwai, from the Fijian Ministry of Education explained that,
“Once we know where the blockades are to using WASH access to stop the spread of hygiene-related disease, children will not have to miss school because of sickness. Also, they should have a consistent supply of water during school days.”
On Thursday, WASH partners collectively analysed data from the baseline survey using Akvo FLOW. Members discussed their lessons learned in the field, and cited areas to improve the WASH in schools survey. The team plans to present the study findings on Friday to complete the week.
From this day forward, WASH partners in Fiji will use Akvo FLOW to map, monitor, and present their projects. The Fiji WASH team would like to extend their gratitude to the Akvo trainers, Anna-Marthe and Stefan; the 12 Nausori schools that participated in the study, to Vodafone for their mobile-phone support, and the participating cluster members:
Ministry of Health & Medical Services
Ministry of Education
Fijian Teachers Association
Secretariat of the Pacific Community /SOPAC Division
Access to Quality Education Programme
Live & Learn Environmental Education
Rotary Pacific Water for Life Foundation
Adventist Disaster Relief Agency
Habitat for Humanity Fiji
Save the Children Fiji
Secretariat of the Pacific Community
Water Authority of Fiji
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
Fiji Department of Water & Sewerage
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Fiji Red Cross Society
Vinaka vakalevu, dhanyavad, and thank you
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene