“You didn’t clean your face this morning. You get sick. Move back one space.”
In Kenya, Ethiopia and Guinea, we’ve helped to create educational board games to teach children about the importance of hygiene: the aim is to encourage them to change their behaviour as part of the countries’ efforts to eliminate the disease.
This type of social behaviour change aims to improve people’s health by influencing their knowledge, attitudes and social norms. It’s the basis of the WASH approach (which stands for ‘water, sanitation and hygiene’). However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for WASH: customs and practices are culturally unique, so the method needs to be tailored to each area.
In schools across Kenya and Ethiopia, students have started playing a game called Captain Clean. Mirriam Nkirote, a public health officer and the F&E coordinator for Narok County, has helped roll out the game in the northern region of Kenya.
“The Captain Clean game is a very interactive hygiene game whose sole objective is to bring about behaviour change on issues concerning sanitation and to help prevent the spread of disease,” says Mirriam. “The game helps raise awareness about facial cleanliness to schoolchildren and to the wider community.”
Water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives, otherwise known as WASH, are vital to eliminating NTDs as poor hygiene is linked to people contracting and spreading these infections.Learn about WASH
The game is designed to get children thinking about their own days, activities and routines and how hygiene practices can be integrated in a fun way. It is taught at school through health clubs where children learn about health and hygiene. The aim is for hygiene practices and behaviours to be adopted through the game, brought home and shared with family and friends, and carried on after the programme.
Mary*, a student in grade five who has been playing the game at school in Narok, Kenya, shares what she has learned. “The game made me go back home and talk to my parents about the importance of using latrines. It’s so easy to play and understand, and my friends and I enjoy playing it very much.”
Similar to Snakes and Ladders, Captain Clean includes a board, dice and a set of cards, which includes knowledge cards, clean cards, wild cards and dirty cards. The cards dictate what each player can do. Players roll the dice to find out how many spaces they are allowed to move. The space they land on has a colour that represents the type of card they need to pick up. Once they have selected the relevant card, they turn it over and read the action.
Samuel Eshitemi Omukuba, technical manager for WASH and NTDs, explains the game further. “For example, a card could say, ‘You did not wash your hands after visiting the toilet. You must move back three steps.’ And then that student would have move three positions backwards from where they landed.
“The aim of the game is not for children to move ahead or to complete the game, but to get the messages that are on the card with the aim that it’s going to translate into behaviour change.”
As an incentive and reward for playing the game, the winner also receives a prize.
Charles*, a student in sixth grade, who plays the game at school in Narok, Kenya explains, “Thanks to the game, we have learned the importance of hygiene; without proper hygiene we can have diseases like trachoma spread in the community. I think it’s important that we continue playing the game.”