Every year, Ban Sikeud Primary School runs a tooth-brushing project from October to April. The same is now established at Ban Phang Heng Primary School and started this year.
The project was initiated by the Lao Ministry of Education in order to accomplish improved hygiene in the country. Therefore, two posters were hung up in the school: “Steps how to brush your teeth” and “Steps how to wash your hands”.
If one observes the children, one can immediately notice the need of this: Many children have rotting teeth. This might be due to many reasons such as lacking hygiene opportunities in combination with a lot of sweet drinks and food which are easily available in many shops. In addition to that, this could be attributed to a vitamin deficiency passed on through generations. Anyhow, it seems to be very important to convey the importance of taking good care of both your primary and permanent teeth.
However, unfortunately, not every Lao school has the means to realise this project. In Ban Sikeud, everything that is needed is provided by the foundation Angels for Children. There is always enough toothpaste and soap, and every pupil receives a toothbrush which is cleverly kept safe when it is not needed.
The project is carried out as a ritual. During the first break, at 10 o’clock, everyone gathers near the long water supply pipes which are installed around the school yard.
The activity starts with some morning exercises.
Afterwards, drops of water run out of the water pipes. The children wash their hands with soap, which is stored in little bags hanging from the pipe – the bags were sewn by Mrs Engel. Then, some teachers walk along the rows of children and distribute toothpaste.
Finally, the children brush their teeth.
After the activity, the water is retained in buckets and used to water the plants.
To me, the project seems to be a lot of fun and very successful at the same time.
Text and photos by K. Petter