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Locked toilets,no hand-wash facility; sanitation a far cry

Over 60 per cent of urban schools in and around Pune do not have proper washbasins in toilets while none of the rural schools has a hand-wash facility in toilets.

Written by Pranav Kulkarni | Pune |
June 6, 2009 4:07:39 am

Over 60 per cent of urban schools in and around Pune do not have proper washbasins in toilets while none of the rural schools has a hand-wash facility in toilets. While many schools have common toilets for boys and girls,the others do not have them in sufficient numbers. These are some of the findings of a survey conducted by the city-based Centre for Environment Education (CEE) as part of its Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) project.

The survey was conducted on a pilot basis in over 150 Marathi and English medium schools,categorised on the basis of student strength — less than 250,250-500 and 500-plus. “Our education system has undergone enormous change with time,but the traditional parameters of cleanliness and sanitation have been neglected. We conducted the survey to redefine the parameters,” said Avinash Madhale,programme officer,CEE.

As per the standards set by the Government of India,all schools need to meet the basic requirement of a urinal per 30-35 students and a toilet per 100 students. A separate sanitation facility for boys and girls is also mandatory.

The survey found that 19 per cent schools in the city have a toilet per 100-150 students and 23 per cent schools have a toilet per 150-plus students. “Some of them in rural areas have a toilet per 500 students,” said Madhale. The survey also observed that absenteeism amongst girls in schools is directly linked to sanitation facilities provided. “In case of adolescent girls,the availability of a sanitation facility is of utmost importance. While the lack of facilities results in absenteeism in urban schools,it causes disinterest in learning and dropouts in rural areas. The UNICEF data shows that enrollment goes up with the availability of a clean sanitation facility,” said Laxmikant Despande,programme officer.

The UN had declared 2008 as the Year for International Sanitation. “We were shocked to find locked toilets in most of these schools,and the authorities reasoned that the students will dirty them if they are kept open. The children then dirty the urinals. The lack of proper washbasins in toilets results in children washing their hands at the drinking water taps,thereby polluting the drinking water,” Madhale said.

Studies show a child needs to consume a litre of water a day to stay healthy. “We found that no school met this basic need. For instance,if it has 1,000 pupils,it had a 500-litre water tank. If there are two shifts for these students,there was no mechanism to refill the tank during the interval.”

The CEE plans to develop policies and work closely with students to create an awareness about sanitation and hygiene. “The students’ views are important as they need to recognise what hygiene is. They should know what it takes to maintain clean facilities,” said Sanskriti Menon,programme director.

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