In large parts of the world, a lack of home tap water burdens households as the water must be brought to the house from outside, at great expense in terms of effort and time.
This paper studies how such costs affect girls’ schooling in Ghana, with an analysis based on four rounds of the Demographic and Health Surveys. Using Global Positioning System coordinates, it builds an artificial panel of clusters, identifying the closest neighbors within each round. The results seem to be the first definitive documentation of such a relationship in Africa.
The results indicate a significant negative relation between girls’ school attendance and water hauling activity, as a halving of water fetching time increases girls’ school attendance by 2.4 percentage points on average, with stronger impacts in rural communities.
The World Bank study is available here.
In the Philippines, while Mega Manila is in the grip of a nightmare over the transfer of tax liabilities incurred by MWSS and Maynilad to the bills of their consumers – something as serious as Enron’s fraudulent acts which eventually led to its downfall – the situation in the provinces when it comes to water supply remains prehistoric. Rural households are not connected to Level III water supply – a standard that a third world country ought to meet if it wants to shed its third-world stature – and many villages if not for the aid of I/NGOs (meaning, foreign donations. how can we continue to rely on foreign people to fund our water, a very basic commodity and service of local governments? I’m embarrassed just thinking about it.) for Level I and II systems would be without piped water at all.
Local Government Units, according to them, “don’t have the budget” for water (including roads, public health, social services, basic things) nor, apparently, the initiative to seek ways and means to bring in private and NGO sector support or partnership. (I/NGOs, usually, were the ones who have approached the LGUs and extended the assistance but not vice versa.) The term ‘watchdogs’, in their scrutiny of public decisions especially pork barrel expenditures, have been given, no less by public officials, a negative meaning. But, if the role of these groups is to watch over the citizens, what is government’s? Shouldn’t government – more so than civic ‘watchdogs’ – the number one protector and carer of its citizens? Shouldn’t government work with instead of campaign against civic groups (‘watchdogs’), usually providing services pro-bono, who are effectively its extensions in areas that it cannot reach otherwise? The public scolding of the NIA Administrator is unfortunate but public officials who slept while citizens work to their bones to contribute to their salaries had it coming for them. It seems, these days, drastic measures are the only means to get public officials to do their jobs. What’s happened to us?
But back to the WB research publication, this reminds stakeholders in quality education that the goal is not merely the jurisdiction of the DepEd but is rather a multi-sectoral and therefore a multi-agency concern.
School children are up hours before breakfast time in order to fetch water for their families. They walk to the source, in semi-darkness, which is several meters or a kilometer away from their houses, once or twice each way, depending on the amount their families will be needing for the day. Why the children, you ask. Because the fathers are in the farms (or away) and the mothers are cooking and doing other housework. If these children have food for breakfast it’s good but many don’t and after bathing or washing up they go straight to school on empty stomachs. In school, they get scolded and maybe punished for being “bobo” (dumb), lethargic, and inattentive. The teachers, themselves harassed by low and delayed wages and poor teaching environments, prefer to dwell on students’ obvious ill-behavior rather than dig deeper into it – hunger is one deeper reason – which would entail time, patience, and resolutions that these teachers are so stretched out on.
Clearly, then, quality education (as with the other social services) is the jurisdiction of Local Government Units. The path toward a strong Republic it has been said, time and time again, starts with educated citizens. On the ground, the mechanism is already in place – the Local School Boards. Unfortunately these are at best non-functioning.
For DepEd, it needs to publicize and/or communicate the results of its researches on quality education so that national and local policymakers will be guided. The agency should lobby Local Government Units to start on the habit of crafting policies based on evidence and what’s relevant in the localities. But most policies – EFA, QE, Water, etc. – are in place already. LGUs just need to understand and do.