|Primary School Physical Environment and Health - WHO Global School Health Initiative (SIDA - WHO, 1997, 96 p.)|
Clearly, the maintenance needs of schools vary enormously depending on location, materials, resources available, etc. But some general principles can be identified.
· Funds must be allocated for maintenance and repair. As a general rule, spending on maintenance over a 20-year period, should roughly equal the original construction cost.
· Decisions must be made, with all parties, about who is responsible for what. This may include the children.
· Situations must not be allowed to deteriorate too far before action is taken.
· Routines, both daily and annual, must be developed. For example: children might bring water to school each day; the compound might be cleaned at weekly cleaning sessions; or gardening might be carried out periodically by groups of parents.
The impetus for action on maintenance should be an annual school environmental audit and action plan (SEAAP). This should be used as an opportunity to:
· bring together all the people concerned with the school;
· reinvigorate possibly flagging enthusiasm for daily routines;
· reflect on which matters, if any, have been missed;
· identify obstacles to progress, whether financial, organizational or material.
While each school may have specific requirements, there are some key areas of concern. The following may suggest some useful lines of enquiry.
The compound. Is it secure? Does the perimeter wall or the gate need repairs? Is it being kept clean? Are there neglected or underused corners? Are there opportunities for flower-beds, trees or vegetable plots? Is there any play equipment? If so, does it need repairs? If not, what possibilities exist to acquire some? Are the hard surfaces safe - are there dangerous steps or broken concrete? Is the compound clean? Are the children actively involved in keeping it clean?
The school buildings. Is the main structure sound? Is the roof leaking? Are there broken windows or doors? If so, have they been made safe? Are there broken or missing handrails? Are the floors dry and can they be kept clean? Do any areas require whitewash?
Furniture. Do the blackboards need repainting? Are the desks and chairs safe?
Drinking-water. Is there an adequate supply of drinking-water? If not, what can be done about it? If the drinking-water is being stored on the premises, is it being adequately protected from contamination? Can children freely take water without contaminating it for others?
Handwashing. Is there adequate provision for hand-washing? Is the supply of water reliable? If not, are there possibilities for on-site water storage? Do all the taps work? Is water being wasted? Is the handwashing facility conveniently placed in relation to the toilets? Can small children use it easily? Is there soap? If not, what can be done to provide soap or a substitute? Are children constantly reminded of the need to wash their hands? Do staff wash their hands and are they seen to do so?
Sanitation. Are there toilets and urinals? Are there enough? Are they clean? Do they smell? Do they all work? Can they be used in all weathers? Who is responsible for providing them? Who is responsible for maintaining them? Who is responsible for cleaning them? If toilet paper is used, is there enough and who provides it? If water is used for cleaning, is there enough and who provides it? What are the childrens attitudes to the toilets? Is there any reluctance to use them due to smells, dirt or lack of privacy?
Waste. Who is responsible for cleaning the classrooms and the compound? Where is waste stored? Is it adequately contained and protected from vermin? Is it regularly removed from the site? If not, who is responsible?
These questions are of little use unless they can lead to action. In some cases the action may involve mobilizing key members of the parent-teacher association to exert political pressure on local government, for example to provide a better water supply or more regular waste collection. In other cases it may lead to a day of collective work by parents, staff and children to repair, clean or build. Other issues may require new daily routines such as cleaning rotas for the compound and toilets.
All decisions for action should be recorded. The following year the decisions of the previous SEAAP should be compared against performance.
Local and national authorities should ensure that maintenance and repair work is done by the most appropriate body. For instance, most maintenance and repair jobs are very small and do not require the intervention of engineers and skilled labour. A Ministry of Education could have a minor works department responsible for day-to-day maintenance, calling on the Ministry of Works (or its equivalent) only when more major construction work is required. In this way overall resources can be conserved.