As Metro Manila prepares for the return of face-to-face classes, school heads are left with a problem: how can we meet the Department of Education (DepEd)’s minimum hand hygiene protocols when we lack the handwashing facilities? Procter & Gamble (P&G)’s Safeguard, in partnership with Manila Water Foundation (MWF), addressed this by donating Php 70 million to build handwashing facilities in all 285 schools that do not meet the DepEd Wash in Schools (WinS) hand hygiene ratings. By doing so, these public schools will be meeting DepEd’s minimum star rating in WinS Program, enabling the schools to apply for reopening.
The DepEd WinS Program is a 3-star rating system developed in 2016 to rate public schools in the areas of Safe Drinking Water, Gender Segregated Toilets, Group Handwashing Facilities with Soap, Daily Group Handwashing Facilities, and Access to Sanitary Pads. Through a pre-planning session, Safeguard was able to identify that the handwashing areas scored the lowest across the board, with Metro Manila surprisingly as one of the key drivers of the rating.
According to P&G Communications Director Anna Legarda-Locsin, this partnership with DepEd and MWF encourages students and teachers to “practice good hygiene habits that will protect them from disease-causing germs and viruses while they are in school.” She also went on to say that everyone involved in this project is looking forward to “seeing the outcome of this project, and the health, and the good that we can do in the many schools in the community.”
When asked how the SAFE Wash in Schools initiative align with Safeguard Philippines’ goals, the brand’s Communications Leader, Jeune San Juan, expresses that “by safeguarding the everyday health and hygiene of our children and educators as well, we are also safeguarding the future of the nation. By enabling schools to reopen with handwashing facilities, that is only just the first step we are taking in building safe habits for the future of our kids.”
Don Galo Elementary School Head Mylene Catana expressed how their school is currently at a zero-star rating but with the help of the SAFE Wash in School program, she is certain that pretty soon they will achieve a two or three-star rating. “[The handwashing facilities] will help us achieve one, two, or three stars. Because we now have enough water supply and our handwashing facilities are enough to accommodate pupils to [wash their hands in] before entering the school and even after recess.”
On top of the donation for building more handwashing facilities and providing water supply, Safeguard will be providing these schools soaps in all these schools to push the handwashing movement further. Safeguard and MWF have already constructed 82 handwashing facilities in schools to date, and this program will accelerate the number to 332 schools nationwide by the end of the year.
Jose Victor Emmanuel de Dios, the CEO of Manila Water Company and president of Manila Water Foundation, expressed his thanks for this initiative led by P&G.
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Manila Water Foundation, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to P&G Philippines, led by their president Mr. Raffy Fajardo for entrusting [Manila Water Foundation] with the #SafeWashInSchools project.”
In the coming months, Safeguard and MWF will roll out DepEd-approved educational modules to teach handwashing habits in school and at home. This is an effort to ensure that handwashing is practiced as a habit and is embedded in the learning curriculum.