UNESCO Chair Global Health and Education Health Education, Prevention, Health Promotion, Children and Young People

The school environment does matter for educational success and health!

The school environment plays an important role in the educational success, well-being and health of students. The quality of life at school (the physical and/or social environment) represents one of the key determinants of successful education. Adequate access to water, sanitation and hygiene in schools is every child’s right, as recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Protocol on Water and Health and the Ostrava Declaration on Environment and Health. Both schools and local authorities are heavily involved to ensure that pupils are cared for in the best possible conditions. Within the Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programme, WHO Europe has just published an information package and tool aimed at supporting schools and local authorities in this area:

The information package offers practical support for school staff on how to address common WASH problems and deliver improvements at the school level, alongside pupils and the entire school community. It will help schools strengthen health education and implement whole-school policies that promote the health, well-being and dignity of pupils and school staff, making every school a health-promoting school.

Access to WASH in schools in the pan-European region presents many and diverse challenges. A key step to improve the situation, bringing better educational and health outcomes, is high-quality surveillance to raise awareness and drive progress. The practical tool supports countries in strengthening surveillance of WASH in schools. The findings will inform the development of supportive regulations and improvement planning to safeguard children’s health, well-being, dignity and cognitive performance. The tool also enables countries to use the data collected to facilitate policy dialogue and inform international reporting, including on progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal targets related to WASH in schools.