News / Asia

Safe Water Lowers Absenteeism

A Cambodian school girl runs home after her morning primary school in Rokar Tnong village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011.  (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
A Cambodian school girl runs home after her morning primary school in Rokar Tnong village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Reducing absenteeism in schools in developing countries may be as simple as providing students with safe drinking water. A new study indicates that, but researchers are not sure why.


The study was done at eight schools in Cambodia where the attendance records of more than 3,500 students were checked. Half received the safe drinking water -- which was treated with ultraviolet light and not chlorine – the other half did not.

Paul Hunter, professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia, said, “This study was actually part of a slightly bigger study where we were looking at the impact of providing clean water on diarrheal disease in children in Cambodia. And as part of that the charity that provides this water said, well, we also give water free to the schools, is there any point in looking at whether it affects absenteeism in the school. And we looked and we found this quite strikingly strong association between providing drinking water and reduced absenteeism, at least during the dry season.”

Hunter and his colleagues found that children without access to clean water were two and a half times more likely to be absent.

“This was certainly substantially more than I was expecting to be honest,” he said.

Each school receiving the safe drinking water was given a 20 liter bottle per class each day. The cost is very low -- about $1.40 per child per year – and is paid for by the charity One Thousand and One Fountains.

Hunter said that there was no difference in absenteeism during the rainy season. There could be several reasons for this.

“I’ve visited in the rainy season and it’s not necessarily that easy to move around. So part of it might be that children actually could get to school because of localized flooding. The other issue is of course children during the wet season may well have been kept off school to help with the paddy fields. And it might well also be that the fact that during the wet season children don’t get as thirsty and there’s more water around.”

Now, it may appear obvious that providing clean and safe drinking would reduce absenteeism. Not so, said Hunter.

“Initially, we did think it might be because of improved health – because of drinking less contaminated water. And that may well have contributed, but it probably wasn’t the main driver.”

The researchers looked at one school for clues.

“In one of the schools,” Hunter said, “the contractor wasn’t delivering as much water as he should have done. And we found in the weeks where he delivered a lot of water absenteeism rates were low and the weeks that he didn’t deliver water absenteeism rates were high. So that would be too quick if it was an infectious thing from drinking contaminated water.”

So, the reason remains a mystery and more research is needed. Perhaps you could say the students simply had a – thirst for knowledge. Hunter laughed and said, “Yes, you could indeed, yes.”

Professor Hunter adds that it’s unclear whether the results from the Cambodia study can be applied directly to schools in sub-Saharan Africa. He describes education as “one of the most important factors that enables children to fulfill their potential later in life and reduce poverty.”

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid