The UN-Habitat Human Values-based Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education Program (HVWSHE)

A primary focus of the work of the United Nations Human Settlements Program(UN-Habitat) has been to support efforts by governments in developing countries in their pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for water and sanitation. The HVWSHE program falls under:

MDG 7: Ensure environmental sustainability. Sub-goal (3): Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

Its rationale was the realisation that improvements in water management cannot be accomplished by technical or regulatory measures alone. These need to be complemented by advocacy, awareness and education initiatives aimed at changing people’s attitudes and behaviours towards water, sanitation and hygiene. This was to be achieved through educational means in schools and communities using Education in Human Values (EHV).

A school for street kids rescued from Kathmandu about to perform a play
Students at a school for street kids rescued from Kathmandu
Educational posters relating to water and sanitation at a school in Bhopal, India

EHV was an approach which at the time of inception was quite new and had in the view of UN-Habitat, the potential both to influence the behaviour of young children at primary school and to change attitudes in small local communities. The approach was described as one that focuses on five fundamental “human values” that are common to all humanity whatever the country, customs or religion that obtain in any community. These values are “truth”, “peace”, “non-violence”, “love” and “right conduct”. They may be taught directly through a series of processes such as group singing, a saying or prayer, story-telling, silent sitting, group activities, and role-play. They can also be introduced more generally into mainstream curricula. The technique has been introduced into many countries and early indications are that it seemed quite successful. For example there is evidence that child behaviour, child learning and teacher stress indicators have often improved significantly12.

The program was started through the leadership of Mr Kalyan Ray (the first chair of the World Foundation Education committee) who in 2000 was the head of the Urban Basic Services branch of UN-Habitat in Nairobi, Kenya. He teamed with Victor Kanu from The African Institute of Sathya Sai Education (TAISSE) to commence the program. The program began in six African cities in 2001, and after a favourable external review in 2004 and supported by a newly instituted Water and Sanitation Trust Fund, the Program was modified and expanded into a further eleven African cities in 9 countries.

In 2003 an Asian component was started under the auspices of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) and the Government of the Philippines. HVWSHE has since become an integral component of UN-Habitat’s Water for Asian Cities Program. The launch was at a workshop in Manilla, and three Australians were invited to help facilitate the workshop attended by most Asian Countries; they were Ms Bronwyn Gowing, Professor Muttucumaru Sivakumar and Professor Roger Packham. Subsequently Dr Pal Dhall was involved with an exploratory mission to China for the program, and an advisory capacity to an NGO in India. Professor Sivakumar attended a consultative meeting in New Delhi in 2005 to finalise support material for the project. Professor Packham was not involved further until 2013, when he was invited to join the three-person team of international consultants to conduct an external evaluation of the program.

More recently a Latin American and Caribbean program was started. It began much later (2010) and has operated through collaboration with the Project Wet Foundation to investigate the incorporation of HVWSHE into the Water and Sanitation for Cities in the region (WATSAN-LAC). An assessment of water education in five LAC countries had found that water education is rarely addressed at a national level and there is a critical need for a human values-based approach to water, sanitation and hygiene education in schools.

This outline is based on the external review of the program conducted by the international consultants in 2013 to establish what had worked well and what had not, and to make recommendations on how to address challenges in the delivery of the HVWSHE program. The review also explored modalities for ensuring that the positive results of the HVWSHE program were sustained in the target cities and replicated in other cities. It encompassed all the HVWSHE program activities supported by the Trust Fund from 2002-2012. The team was led by Professor Norman Clark from the Open University in the UK, together with Professor Dalton de Souza Amorim from the Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil (also a member of the World Foundation education committee), and Professor Roger Packham, University of Western Sydney, Australia.

The review found that the HVWSHE Program had made a substantial impact in all the countries where it had operated, in terms of the number of teachers trained, schools and pupils reached; and communities affected positively; but also more widely at government level as shown by the acceptance of the program by bodies like South East Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO) and the West African equivalent in Dakar. It also made a significant impact at training college level in many countries with an expectation of major roll out. Part of its success appears to be its acceptability in many different cultures and most religious settings. A second factor in its success was its decentralised nature, allowing adaptation to local conditions and in many cases strong local community involvement. A third contribution made by the program has been in the strengthening of national and local institutional capabilities of the participating countries. Of particular note is the training of trainers (TOT) model through which cadres of trainers have been fostered and who now play an on-going role in promoting values-based education.

An important factor leading to this success has been the ability of UN-Habitat to leverage strategic partnerships, particularly with NGOs, IGOs3 and private sector bodies. These partnerships have enabled UN-Habitat to capitalise on its program well beyond what might have been expected from normal project investments. The total cost of the HVWSHE Program over the 10 years or so since inception is of the order of $7.3m (60% of this directly from UN-Habitat, the rest from partners): This relatively tiny sum has appeared to leverage considerable real time benefits. Indeed, even though funding for HVWSHE program activities has now ceased, Dr Jumsai and Ms Lorraine Burrows have been engaged by the Governments of Bhutan, Thailand and Indonesia to introduce EHV into their schools through their own education ministry’s funding.

Mr Avi Sarkar from UN-Habitat in Vientiane, Lao PDR led the HVWSHE program in Asia. He runs after-hours EHV lessons at his home every week-night for about 75 children, and is starting a Sathya Sai School in Vientiane. Dr Jumsai and Ms Lorraine Burrows led the HVWSHE teacher training component in Asia, and Dr Jumsai has also travelled to African since the death of Victor Kanu. In association with the Thai Sathya Sai School, there is a “Water Classroom” and eco-house to demonstrate human values in action for the environment, and these facilities receive more than 1000 visitors each month, learning about EHV. A set of videos in English is available on the Thai Ministry of Education website to support this program. A collection of materials relevant to the HVWSHE program is maintained by UN-Habitat, and goes back to the start of the program.

Thus the HVWSHE program is a wonderful example of taking EHV to the wider world community to make a real difference to peoples’ lives and wellbeing.

Summary Data

RegionTrainers TrainedRefresher CoursesTeachers Training CollegesTeachers Model CollegesCommunitiesSchoolsWater ClassroomTeachers TrainedPupils

  1. Jumsai (2003) A development of the human values integrated instructional model based on intuitive learning concept, PhD Thesis, Chulalongkorn University (Pbl. Auckland NZ)
  2. - UK Charity Human Values Foundation which promotes education in human values as part of a well-rounded school education.