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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid