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Soccer Stars join forces with Lifebuoy at Pretoria school to teach handwashing through play for Global Handwashing Day

Learners from Mabu-a-tlou Primary in Pretoria were delighted to play Lifebuoy’s new H for Handwashing Games together with Banyana Banyana Goalkeeper, Andile Dlamini, and Bafana Bafana striker Siphiwe Tshabalala – using the power of play to reignite the importance of proper hand hygiene.

The pupils squealed with delight when visited by the sports stars today in commemoration of Global Handwashing Day, an internationally recognised day co-founded by Lifebuoy. Global Handwashing Day was initiated in 2008 by key stakeholders in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of hand washing and its ability to combat illness and absenteeism in school children.

This all too important day in South Africa comes at a critical time when global handwashing rates have been on a decline. According to a study by Ipsos in 2021, handwashing rates have decreased drastically – from 78% in March 2020 to 59% in September 2021. This alarming decrease in the handwashing rate could potentially result in a higher number of children falling ill due to preventable infections and diseases.

Since the inception of the day, globally, Lifebuoy has reached 1 billion people with its handwashing message, and in South Africa alone more than 6 million grade one learners have been taught handwashing skills, and more than 20 million people have been reached through the National Hygiene Schools Programme in partnership with the Department of Basic Education (DBE).

Today marked another milestone as Lifebuoy South Africa launched the H is Handwashing games which were developed in collaboration with Imagimake, a leading Indian toy manufacturer, and esteemed expert in the fields of play, hygiene, and education. Using Lifebuoy’s behaviour change model, 4 much-loved games including Snakes and Ladders and Tic-Tac-Toe have been transformed into germ-conquering alternatives such as Germs and Ladders and Soap-Tac-Toe to drive a profound and lasting impact on handwashing with soap long after playtime.

A study in Mumbai, India, consisting of 190 children between 5-8 years old has already been undertaken using the H for Handwashing games. The effectiveness of the Games Kit was determined by comparing the data from before and after gameplay, specifically looking at improvements in handwashing awareness and practices among the children. The study found that after exposure to the games:

  • There was a 17 times improvement in the knowledge of the handwashing steps,
  • Familiarity with germ hotspots and transmission mechanism nearly doubled and
  • Handwashing behaviours improved with nearly 40% more children:
    • Practicing handwashing with soap before eating at school,
    • Using correct handwashing steps, and
    • Reminding their peers to wash hands with soap.

These promising outcomes highlight the innate potential of these games, demonstrating their value as impactful tools in handwashing education.

“At the core of our brand’s purpose lies our unwavering mission to inspire and foster good hygiene habits that last a lifetime,” says Tarryn Payne – Unilever’s Africa Skin Cleansing Lead. “It is this mission that continues to drive us forward, propelling us as a powerful leader in the industry. The H for Handwashing Games aim to address hygiene fatigue by making handwashing fun, exciting, and a part of everyday play. By capturing children’s attention and imagination, we believe we can re-establish the importance of handwashing as a lifelong habit, even in the post-pandemic era, in a fun and engaging manner.”

A key partner on the day was the Shoprite Group who donated 450 pairs of shoes and stationary packs to Grade 1 – 3 learners as part of their current initiative to donate 7,500 pairs of shoes.

Other role players such as representatives from the DBE, Department of Health (DOH), UNICEF, joined Unilever, Lifebuoy, and other esteemed guests were also present at the school today where they played H for Handwashing Games with the learners.

Dr Granville Whittle, DDG: Care & Support in Schools, explained his Department’s collaboration with Lifebuoy, “When children are sick and unhealthy they can’t learn. Healthy children learn better. In addition to our aim to provide quality education, we want to ensure that the overall health & wellbeing of our children is taken care of.”

The games are a product of Lifebuoy’s years of extensive scientific research on how children learn. For example, last year the brand introduced the Handwashing CEOs (Chief Education Officers) initiative which trained select pupils to lead their peers by example in practicing hand hygiene. The initiative was based on studies that showed that when children were taught by other children, they were more likely to remember the information and change their behaviour.

These games will strengthen this vital habit in children. Research has proven that board games, especially those featuring cooperative play, can foster multidomain learning, hence Lifebuoy’s decision to incorporate hygiene and handwashing into board games.

Soccer Stars Dlamini and Tshabalala said they felt privileged to play their part in the event and help learners better understand the impact of handwashing on their wellbeing and futures. Dlamini shared why the Lifebuoy partnership resonated with her, “I’m a COVID survivor. I experienced COVID first hand and then a heart infusion. As a result, I couldn’t play soccer for 6 months. During that time I learnt to take better care of myself and the importance of washing my hands.”

Both stars then committed to spread the message of handwashing to their respective teams.

The brand aptly donated permanent handwashing stations, and a play area for the school, which will serve as a permanent reminder of the power of play to educate and engage.

Principal of the school, Rebecca Sikhu, expressed her gratitude to the various stakeholders.

Families who would like to try the H for Handwashing Games themselves can visit to download the games and play them at home.

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