The progressive state like Maharashtra has as many as 1,226 government schools that still do not have toilet facility for girl students. And this basic facility for girls is lying non-functional in nearly 2,190 other government schools in the state.
In Pune district, there are 35 government schools that lack toilets for girls, besides 55 other schools where the toilets are not usable.
In his maiden Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pitched for efforts from MPs and the corporate sector to help build separate toilets by next year for girls in schools across the country. He asked MPs to spend their funds on construction of toilets in schools and said the corporate sector too must work with the government, as part of their social responsibility, to build toilets in all schools by the next Independence Day.
The Department of School Education and Literacy, which comes under the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD), has released a consolidated data of government schools that do not have toilets for students.
The data, based on the District Information System for Education (DISE) figures for 2013-14 as on September 30, 2013, has been released coinciding with an initiative under Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyan announced by the prime minister recently.
Commenting on the unavailability of toilets for girls in several government schools in Maharashtra, education activist Suniti R R said the matter was giving rise to other burning issues. “The absence of toilets for girls leads to issues related to education, health and safety of female students. Lack of toilets has a definite link with the dropout rate of girl students. It is associated with health-related issues arising out of spending extended periods of time with a full bladder. Urination in the open jeopardises safety of girls and also compromises with their dignity,” she said.
Suniti said dearth of water could be main reason behind the toilet facility lying non-functional in many government schools.
“The solution could be constructing eco-friendly toilets requiring minimal use of water. The government should increase its expenditure on education and also on raising the infrastructure required in schools. The lack of toilets in schools for both girls and boys is a serious issue and it needs to be addressed on a priority basis,” she said.
Archana More, project support manager at research and consultancy cell of Karve Institute of Social Science, said lack of toilets for girls in schools “not only causes adverse impact on the body of students, but also arrests their involvement in different curricular and extra-curricular activities”.
As per the consolidated data, Maharashtra also has 1,221 schools that do not have toilet facility for boys, besides 1,088 other schools where the facility is dysfunctional for boy students.
The state has a total of 67,307 government schools.
State Commissioner of Education S Chockalingam was not available for his comment despite several attempts to contact him on Saturday. He did not respond to SMSes till Sunday.
Pune District Education Officer (Primary) Shaikh Mushtaq said nominal enrollment of students in the schools concerned, along with lack of desired space for toilets, were two main reasons behind non-availability of the basic facility in schools in the district.
“The issue of unavailability of space for constructing toilets could be addressed by taking into consideration the local self-governing bodies. Efforts are on to have toilets in all schools in district in keeping with the government’s directives,” he said.
Meanwhile, the MHRD, under Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyan, has set a deadline of 2019 to address the issue.
“Mahatma Gandhi laid great emphasis on cleanliness. His ashrams too focused on the same. Let us pledge we will give a ‘Clean India’ as a gift to our Father of the Nation on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019,” a campaign message by the prime minister reads.