A leading South African hygiene brand, Dettol, recently conducted a study on personal hygiene – with shocking results.


of a small bar of



By observing people’s behaviour in public restrooms across South Africa, they found that – on average – only four out of 10 people wash their hands. And of these, only 65% used soap.


Hoping to help people make a clean break with past behaviour, students visited the Polokong Children’s Village where they taught youngsters how important it is to wash your hands.


The honours students in the School of Industrial Psychology and Human Resource Management on the campus in Vanderbijlpark initiated this as a social change project.


By collecting bars of soap from students and staff on campus, they not only made an impact on the community, but also got staff members actively involved. In fact, what started out as an assignment for the LARM 612 module quickly morphed into a campus project with countless opportunities for future support.


Real-life changes


Thapelo Chaacha, LARM 612 lecturer, says the aim of the assignment was to practically demonstrate the theory of social change. As such the students had to identify a need within the community and find ways to address it and make a noticeable difference.


“What makes this assignment so noteworthy is that it exposes students to real-life scenarios and ultimately illustrates the power of their qualification,” says Thapelo, adding that one of the students has already found full-time employment as a result of the practical field work.


The students set out to harness some expert help. “With so many socio-economic challenges evident in society, the students wanted to make an impact and as such reached out to several staff members as a way of sound-boarding their ideas,” he explains.


They attracted the attention of several departments on campus: Corporate Relations and Marketing, Residence and Catering Services, the library, Student Counselling and Development and several academic schools within the Faculty of Humanities. The idea was to collect as many bars of soap as possible. Staff members and students came together and donated generously. Donation points were set up across the campus and posters, flyers and even a note on the big LED screen on the wall of one of the campus buildings followed.


A warm welcome


On 18 May all the donations were collected and the students headed out to the children’s village. Their mission for the day? To teach the children about personal hygiene and especially the necessity of washing their hands.


The group of honours students – Simon Smit, Judele Senekal, Vusimuzi Clifford, Dumisani Nhlapo and Mfans Kolo, took turns washing the children’s hands, thereby interacting with them individually and showing them the correct way to do it.


Dumisani says the assignment and the subsequent social change project made him aware of the immense value of making a difference. “Those little ones were so eager to learn… In a world where we constantly chase bigger and better things, it was humbling to see the gratitude that something so seemingly insignificant like a bar of soap can evoke.” This group of aspiring labour relations and human resource practitioners all agree: if a social change project doesn’t touch you on a personal level, you are doing it wrong!


The School of Industrial Psychology and Human Resource Management would like to thank every member of the campus community who contributed toward the success of the project.

The group of students hand out bars of soap to the residents of the Polokong Children’s Village and demonstrate,

first hand, how to properly wash your hands.