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ADB helps Cook Islands improve WASH facilities in schools

Thursday 21 March 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Education, National


ADB helps Cook Islands improve WASH facilities in schools
Apii Avarua students using the handwashing stations courtesy of Asian Development Bank (ADB), in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Cook Islands Investment Corporation. CIIC/24032003

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC), is delighted to announce the successful completion of project works to enhance water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities in schools across the Cook Islands ahead of the 2024 academic year.

The project has improved the ratio of persons to WASH facilities at 10 Rarotonga schools with the upgrade of handwashing stations and toilets, and the installation of filtered drinking fountains. Other Rarotonga and all Pa Enua schools will receive water filter cartridges to ensure the supply of good quality treated water to these schools.  

A formal acknowledgment ceremony was held earlier this month to mark the milestone and recognise the collaborative efforts of all. Representatives from ADB, Ministry of Education, CIIC, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Internal Affairs, local contractor SiteWorx, NGOs including Cook Islands National Disability Council and Creative Centre as well as public and private school principals and students attended.       

Apii Arorangi School hosted the WASH in Schools ceremony, which began with a traditional welcome (turou) by the students on behalf of all students of the Cook Islands to pay tribute to the momentous project. 

Acting Secretary of Education, Sanjinita Sunish praised the project for its impact on local schools.

“This support not only encourages positive hand hygiene behaviour; it encourages a safer, healthier school community,” Sunish said. 

During her speech at the ceremony, Elena Mataora of CIIC said the project aligned well with her organisation’s vision for the Cook Islands.

“As the entity responsible for managing and maintaining all government property assets, including Education and Health infrastructure, public facilities, this collaboration with ADB is truly appreciated, the project aligns perfectly with CIIC’s overarching vision — quality assets that serve the Cook Islands people,” Mataora said.

The upgrades have been received with excitement by students and teachers at the schools.

Apii Avarua principal Engia Baxter said her students were very happy with the WASH improvements.

“The ECE (early childhood education) students love having their own drinking water fountain in their area and we no longer have long queues for the drinking water tap, we only had one drinking water tap for the entire school before,” Baxter said.

The new facilities are also supporting improved hygiene behaviours at the schools. Appropriate toilet heights are assisting younger students to use facilities unassisted, while the automatic switch-off feature of the hand washing taps prevents water being wasted.

At Apii Imanuela Akatemia School, principal Pita Senibiakula said staff and students were excited to incorporate the new facilities into their activities.

“We are excited to have the wash trough at our school so we can incorporate group hygiene activities like hand washing and brushing of teeth, children learn better as a group,” Senibiakula said.

As part of the broader ADB Pacific WASH support, a subproject titled “Clean Water for All Kukis” was launched in parallel to the facility upgrades, in collaboration with the CIIC under Phase 1 of the Te Tau Papa o Avarua Town Plan, the country’s first wheelchair-accessible drinking fountain was also installed at the Punanga Nui Market, Avarua, Rarotonga.

These endeavours are made possible through ADB’s regional Technical Assistance project (TA 6551), Strengthening WASH Practices and Hygiene Behavioural Change in the Pacific. The TA aims to enhance the capacity of Pacific members to prevent disease transmission by promoting improved WASH practices and creating an enabling environment.

The project’s objectives include improving handwashing practices among students and staff in Rarotonga's schools and will ensure clean water access throughout the Cook Islands. An awareness campaign supporting better hygiene practices, benefiting both students and the wider community, is also in the pipeline following facility improvements.

ADB remains steadfast in its commitment to fostering a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia-Pacific region, while continuing its endeavours to eradicate extreme poverty.

  • CIIC/Jaewynn McKay