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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs