The infectious eye disease is spread through contact with hands, clothing and infected flies. About 1.9 million people are blind or visually impaired because of it.
The programme launched in Kenya, Ethiopia and Zambia in 2014, and expanded to Nigeria in 2018. Since the start of the project, more than 300,000 children have been educated about the importance of washing their hands and face frequently to help stop the spread of the disease.
As part of Super School of Five, children follow a 21-day programme featuring adventures of five superheroes. The characters – designed by Craig Yoe, who worked alongside Jim Henson on The Muppets, and his wife Clizia Gussoni – encourage children to understand the importance of good hygiene habits, particularly washing their face and hands with soap at five key points in the day. The 21-day timescale was chosen because research shows this is the optimum time needed for children to change their behaviour so it becomes habit.
Hand and face-washing stations have been installed outside classrooms, toilets and eating areas at the schools. Sometimes there’s no water source nearby, so teachers and students collect water in jerry cans and make sure each station is filled.
As well as educating children, the programme empowers them and their teachers to change behaviour in their communities. They are encouraged to spread the word about the importance of hygiene and teach others in their family to wash their hands and faces properly. So far, about 3,700 teachers across 340 schools have been trained to champion good hygiene behaviour.
The programme is supported by national governments and funders including The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and UK Aid.
The characters are five of the ’coolest, cleanest’ superheroes, which each represent one of the five key points in the day when children need to wash their hands.
The superheroes must fight their arch enemy Nogood, a baddie who loves germs.