“Ada, you have to hurry or else you will be late for school,” Mrs. Kalu called to her daughter.
Adaobi, the first daughter of the Kalu family, ran downstairs two steps at a time. Everybody called her a “special child”; indeed the circumstances surrounding her birth were special. She was conceived after Mr. and Mrs. Kalu had decided not to have any more children after having had three boys.
Eight years later, Mrs. Kalu realized that she was pregnant four months into the nine months of gestation. It was a time of mixed feelings for Mr. and Mrs. Kalu. Of course they had wanted a girl, but after three boys, they had given up, deciding to accept fate and concentrate on their boys.
“Mummy, I am not hungry. Could you please drop me off at school? I don’t want to be late,” Ada begged her mum.
“Why the hurry, Ada? It is just seven am and your school is only 10 minutes’ drive from the house. We are not going anywhere if you do not eat breakfast.”
“Okay, I’ll drink a cup of tea,” Ada said to appease her mother. She finished it in less than a minute. “Mummy, I’m ready. Let’s go, please,” Ada begged her mum again.
As they headed out, Mrs. Kalu looked at her Adaobi in the rear view mirror of the car. How she loved her daughter. They had a bond that only a mother and daughter could share.
“You will at least tell me the reason for the rush. You barely had breakfast,” Mrs Kalu said to her daughter.
“Mum, you seem to have forgotten that I told you this week is hygiene week in my school”, Ada replied.
“Oh, I completely forgot! But that shouldn’t stop you from eating breakfast, or excuse rushing everyone out of the house. So, what is this hygiene week all about?” Mrs Kalu asked her daughter. “You have not mentioned anything about hygiene week before, because if you did, I would remember.”
“You’re right, Mum, it has just been introduced by the school. I heard that if hygiene week is successful, it may be introduced as a subject both in the junior and senior sections.”
“Can you give me just one reason why you’re so excited about this hygiene week? Is there a prize to be awarded at the end of the week to students?”
“Mum, nobody is receiving any award. I am only excited because I know I’m about to learn something new that I have never learned before.”
“Well, that’s true,” Mrs Kalu smiled at her daughter as she pulled up in front of the school gate. She watched her daughter exit the car and run into the school.
Today happened to be Miss Jane’s first day as a teacher at Royal Academy in Owerri, Imo State. 28-year-old Jane had just finished her National Youth Service Corps two months ago. She was happy to have gotten this teaching job because she loved to be around children. She was asked to see the Head School teacher, as soon as she arrived.
“You’re welcome at Royal Academy, Miss Jane Ameh,” a short man in his early forties greeted Jane.
“Thank you, sir, I am happy to be here.”
“You will teach the junior secondary class, J.S.S 3 to be precise. Just for the record, the teacher whose class you are taking over left the school because she just got married and had to relocate to be with her husband,” the man explained.
“Noted, sir,” Jane said, wondering why he was telling her.
“Maybe he wants me to know their teachers are been treated well here,” she thought to herself.
“Miss Jane, another important thing: this week is our hygiene week. It’s the first since the inception of the school. You should go to the administrative office and ask the receptionist to give you the template you will work with for the week,”
“Okay, sir,” Jane said. “I don’t need a template,” she thought aloud as she walked to the administrative block to see the receptionist.
Since the children were at the assembly hall, Jane had an opportunity to go over the template she had collected from the receptionist. According to the template, teachers were to pick any topic on hygiene to discuss with the children in order to educate them on proper hygiene. Jane was glad that this was an area she was passionate about. Her mother was a retired health teacher, so all that she knew about good dental hygiene, hand hygiene, body hygiene, and hair hygiene, she learned from her mother.
She had even taken an online course on hygiene while she was waiting for her NYSC call-up letter.
“What a good way to start in a new workplace,” Jane thought to herself.
Just before the end of the assembly, Jane went to look for her classroom.
The classroom looked clean and the chairs and tables were well-arranged. There were beautiful art pictures by the children on the wall at the back of the class. Jane was still looking around the classroom when the children arrived in twos and threes. They were all looking at her, wondering what a stranger was doing in their classroom.
“Hello, everyone,” Jane said. “My name is Miss Jane and I’m your new class teacher. I am sure you have been informed by the headteacher that your new teacher would be around today.”
“Yes,” the children answered.
“Okay, let’s all have our seats and introduce ourselves.”
The students introduced themselves one after another.
“I’m happy to meet you all,” Jane said as she smiled at the students.
Ada looked at the beautiful lady in front of the class, and she instantly knew she would like her new teacher.
“ I have been told that this week is hygiene week,” Jane addressed the students. “Who can tell me what hygiene is?”
“Can I answer the question, ma?” David, a light-skinned boy sitting in the front of the class asked.
“You may,” said Jane.
“Hygiene is taking care of your body,” David answered,
“Yes, very true, but then, how do you take care of your body? Let me give you another definition,” Ms Jane said, “and you may jot it down in your book. Hygiene is the practice of maintaining good health in order to prevent the spread of diseases.
“We have dental hygiene, hand hygiene, body hygiene, hair hygiene, nail hygiene and much more. But for this week, being our hygiene week, we are going to concentrate on hand hygiene. Who can tell me what hand hygiene is?”
Ada raised her hand and was called on by Jane. “Hand hygiene is making sure our hands are always clean,” Ada answered.
“That is true,” Jane said, “but let me give you another definition. Hand hygiene is the practice of cleaning one’s hands in order to reduce potential harmful germs. The hands are used to touch parts of the body like the nose, mouth, and eyes, so the hands should be cared for by practicing hand hygiene. You should also know that hand hygiene is a very major way to reduce transmission of infections. Another name for hand hygiene is hand washing.
“This week, we are going to practice maintaining good hand hygiene. You should also know that there is good hygiene and bad hygiene. Good hand hygiene is when you wash your hands with soap to remove bacteria and germs that could be clinging onto the hands. You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before rinsing them with water.
“If you know what good hand hygiene is, then you should know that the opposite of good hygiene is bad hygiene. Bad hand hygiene is when a person neglects his or her hands, causing them to breed germs,” Jane explained. “Not washing your hands after using the toilet is a well-known and common case of bad hand hygiene. Some people believe that washing their hands after using the toilet is not necessary and a waste of time.
Jane continued, “Did you know that a lot of diseases can be spread by touching? Don’t forget that we touch objects with our hands. We may contact bacteria and germs through our hands and use the same hands to give handshakes, touch people, and touch our food. We can stop ourselves from being carriers of these germs and bacteria that can easily be transmitted to another person by constantly washing our hands. Doing this will make us beneficiaries of healthy living.
“We are going to practice what we have learned just now. We are going to use the clean running water provided at the back of the class, soap, and paper towel. We are all going to stand up and one after the other, wash our hands with soap, rinse them with water, and use the paper towel to dry our hands.
“But first of all, I am going to demonstrate how to wash our hands properly, so you all can see and learn. First of all, wet your hands with clean water, apply soap, and create foam by rubbing the hands together. Try to rub your hands together for 20 seconds, then rinse your hands very well with water, and finally dry your hands with the paper towel. This is called practicing what I preach,” Jane said.
Jane monitored the students as one after another, they washed their hands, just as they had seen her wash hers.
“Throughout this week, we are going to maintain the habit of washing our hands after returning from the assembly hall in the morning, every time a student goes to the toilet, and after lunch breaks. I also want you all to practice this hand hygiene when you get home,” Jane told the students.
After the lunch break, as the students entered the classroom, Jane made sure they all went to the back of the classroom to wash their hands properly with soap, rinsed, and also wiped their hands with the paper towel.
Adaobi was especially pleased with the whole hand hygiene routine. She knew she was among those guilty of poor hygiene, and that her family was also guilty of poor hand hygiene.
“I will have to teach my parents and brothers about hand hygiene when I get home,” she thought.
Today was a good day with her new teacher Miss Jane, and she had learned a lot about hand hygiene.
“How was school today?” Mrs. Kalu asked her daughter.
She had sent a driver to pick Ada up from school, as there had been a meeting that she needed to attend to.
“School was fine,” Ada replied.
“What is wrong, Ada? Won’t you give me the usual hug?” Mrs. Kalu asked her daughter.
“I have to wash my hands first. Remember I told you this week is our hygiene week?”
“I remember, but what has that got to do with you giving me a hug?” her mother asked.
“I have to wash my hands as soon as I get home, actually before doing anything. It’s just me practicing good hand hygiene.”
“Haa! This daughter of mine has really changed, and who should I thank for that, because this was not you when I dropped you off at school this morning.”
Ada went to the bathroom to wash her hands properly, using the method her teacher had shown the class.
As Ada walked back into the living room, she said, “ My new teacher, whose name is Miss Jane, talked to us about hand hygiene.”
“Really?” Mrs. Kalu asked with interest.
“Yes, Mummy. She told us that there is good hand hygiene and bad hand hygiene. Mummy, what do you think a good hand hygiene is?”
Mrs. Kalu looked at her daughter, wondering if this was what she would have to deal with throughout the week. She knew how her daughter got when she was passionate about something. She could already see the signs.
“Mum, I asked you a question! What is hand hygiene?” Ada asked her mother again.
“Okay, I’ll answer the question. Hand hygiene as I understand it refers to our conduct to enhance cleanliness, which could lead to good health.”
“Can you give me an example?” Ada asked her mother.
“Adaobi, what is all this? Why are you bothering me with hygiene or no hygiene?” Mrs. Kalu asked her daughter. It was obvious she was getting impatient.
“Mummy, we are all going to benefit from practicing good hand hygiene in our family. And if you take it seriously, I am sure Daddy and the boys will also take it seriously too. They will definitely follow your lead.”
Mrs. Kalu knew her daughter was right about that. “Okay, what was the question again?” she asked.
“What is an example of good hand hygiene?”
“Washing of hands,” Mrs. Kalu replied.
“Correct!” said Ada.
Keke, Mrs Kalu’s housekeeper, had cooked dinner earlier than usual, and the family was sitting down to eat.
“Where is Keke?” Mrs. Kalu asked. It was almost time to serve dinner.
Ada ran to get Keke, and met her as she was coming out of the guest toilet.
“Aunty Keke, Mummy said it’s time to serve dinner.”
As Keke was walking into the kitchen, Ada noticed that she used her apron to wipe her hands. As soon as Keke got to the kitchen, she picked up one of the plates, ready to serve the food.
“Aunty Keke, hold on a minute. You forgot to wash your hands when you came out of the toilet,” said Ada.
Keke looked confused. “I don’t understand,” Keke said.
“You were supposed to wash your hands the moment you finished in the toilet. If you come out of the toilet and do not wash your hands immediately, your hands will carry germs and microorganisms that could easily be transferred to the plate you touched or the serving spoon,” Ada explained.
Quietly, Mrs. Kalu asked Keke if she had washed her hands when she came out of the toilet.
“No, madam, I did not. I heard you call me and left the toilet immediately.”
“Go and wash your hands properly, and when you come back you can dish out the food,” Mrs. Kalu said to her housekeeper.
Ada followed Keke to the sink. “Aunty Keke, let me teach you how to wash your hands the way I was taught in school”, she said.
“I know how to wash my hands,” Keke snapped at Ada.
“Aunty, you shouldn’t get angry with me. This week is our hand hygiene week in school. My teacher has been teaching us how to maintain proper hand hygiene. Miss Jane, my teacher, said it is common bad hand hygiene not to wash your hands after using the toilet. She said it could cause bacteria and germs, which can be transferred into our bodies if we mistakenly put the hands in our mouths.”
“Okay, Ada, teach me how to wash my hands,” Keke said, feeling sorry that she had snapped at the girl.
“First of all, wet your hands with clean water, and apply soap, then foam it by rubbing your hands together. Try to rub your hands together for 20 seconds, and finally rinse your hands very well with water, and dry them with a paper towel.
“Aunty Keke, my teacher said that it is not only when you use the toilet that you should wash your hands. You are supposed to wash your hands after Mummy sends you on errands and you have to exchange money with people, or even after spending time outside in the compound. Immediately when you enter the house, the first thing to do is to wash your hands thoroughly. It is called hand hygiene.”
“Thank you, Ada. I will do better next time.”
By the time they both went back to the kitchen, Mrs. Kalu had finished serving the food.
“Where did the both of you go to? Was Ada giving you a lecture on hand hygiene?” Mrs. Kalu asked.
“Yes, ma,” said Keke.
Smiling, Mrs Kalu said, “I received my own lecture earlier today.”
As the family sat down to eat dinner, Ada looked up and said, “Daddy, I would like to teach you and the boys how to properly wash your hands.”
“Proper way to wash our hands?” Her father asked her.
“Yes, daddy. My teacher taught the class about hand hygiene today and I would like us to start practicing good hand hygiene in our family.”
“Okay Ada,” her father said, knowing his daughter would not rest until she had told them about what she called hand hygiene.
Ada asked her family to follow her to the sink beside the pantry, and then she went on to show them the procedure of hand washing.
As they all watched Ada demonstrating how to properly wash her hands, her father said, “Ada, did you just say I have to wash my hands for at least 20 seconds?”
“Yes, Daddy,” Ada said. “You have to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to be sure that all the germs and microorganisms clinging to your hands are properly washed off.”
“I have just learned something new,” her father said as they all walked back to the dinner table to eat.
The following morning, Ada walked briskly into the classroom, happy that it was still hygiene week. Miss Jane walked in just before the bell rang for morning assembly, smiling at the students in the classroom as she dropped her handbag on her table. It was the second day of hygiene week, and she was eager to educate the students more on hand hygiene. Jane knew the day would go well; she could feel it.
The morning assembly lasted for 25 minutes. Jane was already in the front of the classroom, and she had no intention of telling her students to wash their hands. She wanted to know if they still remembered what she had taken time to teach them the previous day. It was only normal that some of the students would remember to wash their hands, while some may forget. Seeing the students who remembered to wash their hands would be a reminder for the other students, too.
Ada was the first to enter the classroom. Jane watched as she went straight to the back of the class, opened the tap to wet her hands, then rubbed soap on her hands, scrubbing for what seemed like 20 to 25 seconds. She then turned on the tap again to rinse her hands. By the time she finished, all the students were already in the classroom. Jane had already taken her position behind her desk and would occasionally raise her head slightly to watch those who were washing their hands.She noticed that some students came back from the morning assembly and went straight to their desks to sit down.
Once all the students had settled down for the day’s teaching, Miss Jane stood in front of the class and said, “Before I start, I would like you to stand up if you forgot to wash your hands.”
Four students stood up, and Jane asked them why they had not washed their hands.
“We forgot,” they all said at once.
“How is it possible that you forgot to wash your hands when you saw your classmates go to the back to wash their hands?You may not take hand hygiene seriously, but I assure you that it will benefit you now and for a long time to come, so I want you to take it seriously. Go and wash your hands and come back and join us.”
The student rushed to the back to wash their hands.
“Today is the second day of hygiene week. I will be talking about bad hygiene habits today. As we all know by now, bad hand hygiene is when a person neglects his or her hands, causing them to breed germs. There are a few things that we could do to trigger bad hand hygiene.
“The first one is not washing our hands after using the toilet. Despite knowing the importance of washing hands, some people still don’t wash their hands. An example of this is what some of the students did this morning. They had been told the importance of washing their hands properly, but they decided not to comply.
“Secondly, if you do not use the correct method to wash your hands, your hands may not really be clean.
“Thirdly, another example of very bad hand hygiene is eating food without first washing your hands. It is very harmful not to wash your hands before eating, because harmful germs could enter your system through your mouth.”
On the fourth day of hygiene week, Miss Jane gave her students the task of naming all the materials needed for good hand hygiene. All the students got the answers correct, naming materials like clean running water, soap, paper towel, and even a garbage container to throw away the used paper towel.
Standing in front of the class, Miss Jane looked at all of her students and said, “This week, you all have made me proud with the way you handled hygiene week. You learned and quickly adapted to the procedures of good hand hygiene. Even though hygiene week is coming to an end, I would like you all to view every week as a hygiene week. Give yourselves a round of applause, because you all have done well.
Standing up, the students clapped for themselves, giving one another high fives.
“I have some other news for you,” Miss Jane said. “The school authority has watched carefully for the class that took hygiene week the most seriously, and this class came first. As a result, the school authority has decided to sponsor this class on an excursion to a manufacturing company, where a major material used for hand hygiene is manufactured. You all are going on an excursion to a soap making manufacturing company!”
Miss Jane watched as her students jumped up from their chairs, running around the class in excitement as they gave one another hugs and another round of high fives.
“They deserve the reward,” Miss Jane thought to herself.
“Mum, the excursion we went on this morning has given me better insight.”
“Into what?” Mrs. Kalu asked her daughter.
Ada could not stop talking about the excursion her class had gone on that morning. She could still picture what she had seen at the factory, especially the big machines that formed the soap.
“I want to be a manufacturer of materials used for hygiene purposes.”
“Really?” Mrs. Kalu asked her daughter.
“Hygiene week has really made a positive impact on you,” her mother said.