Students of government schools in Narmada district will no longer reply “present sir” during the roll call, instead they will pick an answer to whether they have toilet at their homes and either say “sauchayala chhe” or “sauchayala nathi” or “sauchalaya bane chhe”.
It is an attempt by the administration to instil a sense of “hygiene” in the students and their families as part of the district’s open defecation free (ODF) drive. The month-long rigorous exercise, authorities said, will ensure that every home in the district has a toilet as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. A circular issued call to ensure toilet at home by the district education officer (DEO), at the instruction of District Development Officer Ranjit Kumar on June 13, stated, “A link in (the Swachh Bharat Mission) are school children. It is imperative to instil the values of hygiene in the minds of the primary school children so that an open dialogue can be initiated in their homes about building toilets. The children can inspire their parents to be part of the hygiene process. If they imbibe the values of hygiene as children, they will grow up to become individuals averse to open defecation. In order to encourage the movement initiated by the Central government and the state government to build toilets in every home, students attending schools are expected to answer their roll call by saying ‘sauchalaya chhe’ (I have a toilet at home), ‘sauchalaya nathi’ (I don’t have a toilet at home) or ‘sauchalaya bane chhe’ (toilet at home is under construction) instead of saying ‘present sir’ or any such words.”
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That is not all. Students who reply ‘sauchayala nathi’ will have their teacher and classmates taking out a protest rally to their parents, urging them to construct a toilet.
According to Kumar, who devised the strategy, “We began this exercise on June 13, targeting school children who will carry the message to their parents. We have included three categories — Yes, No and Under-construction. If any student says that he does not have a toilet at home, then the same evening his teacher and the classmates will take out a rally and protest outside the student’s house to urge his parents to construct the toilet. The government is granting Rs 12,000 to construct toilets, but many families just do not want to do it.”
The circular has been sent to 659 primary schools, 58 secondary and 16 higher secondary schools in the district, and will remain in force for a month. It highlighted the fact that open defecation put at risk the safety of women, stating that “several incidents of rape or sexual harassment have been reported when women are forced to answer the nature’s call in the open after sunset”.
Kumar said, “The present roll call will be in place for a month, where we are aggressively promoting the concept of building toilets until we reach a saturation level. The next step will be to include questions about its usage. So, the roll call will be like ‘I am using the toilet’ or ‘I am not using a toilet’. In such an arrangement, the students cannot give a false answer as the other students living in the neighbourhood will immediately report to the teacher.”
The health department of the district also conducted a data survey before implementing the roll call idea that revealed rural families could save up to Rs 260 per month by constructing toilets. Kumar said, “We conducted a survey where we found that each family potentially saves Rs 260 per month by avoiding illnesses arising due to open defecation, mainly diarrhoea and vomiting. We are spreading the message to make the children sensitive as they are the future for the country and we will be able to make Narmada open defecation free.”