Almost half of all schools in low-income countries do not have access to water and sanitation facilities. When there are no clean, safe toilets and washing facilities, girls are especially vulnerable to dropping out of school. Worldwide, children have been losing 443 million school days a year due to water-related diseases that could often be prevented through better sanitation and hand-washing facilities.

Module 5: Water and School

“Water is fundamental to life and is the common denominator of all sustainable development challenges. We need water to produce food and we need water to produce energy. Improving access to freshwater is about enabling millions of girls to go to school instead of walking kilometres to fetch water.” – Irina Bokova, Director-General, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)


Most children in the world spend a considerable amount of time at school, not only learning, but also playing and using facilities such as toilets, kitchens, and gardens. This provides a great opportunity for teaching about water at school. Sanitation and hygiene, for instance, are two important topics to discuss with children and also for everyone to practice on a daily basis when performing any activities that involve water, such as using the lavatory and washing hands before lunch. Another important topic to explore is the local environment surrounding the school. Is it dry or wet? Does it rain a lot, or are their droughts? Does it become flooded very often? Is it close to a river, a lake, or the sea? Or is it far from natural waterways? These are just some of the water-and-school topics you can talk about. After pinpointing characteristics of the local ecosystem, teachers and students can discuss how we use water for hand washing, toilet flushing, drinking, activity cleanup, preparing food, and many other purposes. All of these ideas can prompt students to consider the next question: How can we improve the way we use water at school? Module 5 aims to empower students and teachers to identify water-related issues at school, then make a plan and take action.


Water and sanitation

Access to sanitation, the practice of good hygiene, and a safe water supply could save 1.5 million children a year. 

Rainwater harvesting

Schools and communities that are facing water shortages could dramatically boost supplies by collecting and storing rain falling freely from the clouds.

Grey and black water

Wastewater is composed of domestic grey water (water from baths, sinks, washing machines, and kitchen appliances) and black water (water from toilets).


Child-led school water, sanitation, and environment mapping
Activity Time: 90 minutes Thematic Areas: Science, Social Studies, Geography
Making a rainwater catchment system
Activity Time: 90 minutes Thematic Areas: Science, Environmental Education
Building a “banana circle” to filter gray water and reduce pollution
Activity Time: 90 minutes Thematic Areas: Science, Environmental Education, Horticulture