Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Parents reluctant to send girls to schools without toilets

Parents reluctant to send girls to schools without toilets

Abhishek Choudhari & Aparna Nair, TNN Jan 24, 2014, 02.47AM IST

NAGPUR: Hygiene and sanitation in schools is a major issue, especially when it comes to institutions run either directly by the government or aided by it. Lack of funds and improper implementation of plans have caused schools to lag in this important aspect. It gets worse if the school has girl students too. In Nagpur district, almost 10% schools have no separate toilet for girls. They are forced to use the open ground to relieve themselves. While the problem is more acute in rural areas, it exists everywhere. Even if toilets exist, many times they are not cleaned an maintained properly preventing students from using them.
Someshwar Netam, education officer for Nagpur district, said, "These schools have been told to immediately fix the lacuna. It is unacceptable that girls don't have a separate toilet in schools. Hygiene, sanitation and privacy are important for everyone but more so for girls. We have given a grace period to erring schools and informed them that if the issue is not addressed, their recognition will be scrapped. I am confident that soon the problem will be solved."
Some school managements told TOI the stopping of non-salary grants for the last 10 years had affected many projects in aided schools. Trustee of one such school said, "Since 2004, the government has not paid us for anything other than staff salary. We are barely managing after paying for electricity, water and other bills. Construction of anything new is a challenge because of the lack of funds. It is not like we don't want to construct things, it is about the financial resources."
Rachna Singh, principal, St Ursula Girls' High School, said, "This figure saying only 91.1% of schools in the district have toilet for girls is alarming. It is not a good sign for our country and district. The availability of washrooms plays a very important role in education system. It directly affects enrolment of students. It is also a matter of hygiene of the children. Schools that don't have toilets should be closed down. The percentage of schools having toilet for boys is 96.7%. And we talk about equality."
Anurag Pandey, principal, Suyash Convent said, "This is really pathetic. 91.1% means about 9% schools in the district don't have toilets for girls. It is a very sorry situation. Clean toilets are a basic need that should be fulfilled by the schools. It is the responsibility of the school to provide them. This also has a direct effect on the enrolment of girl students in schools, especially in rural areas. Absence of toilets is a de-motivating factor for parents to send their daughter to school. It will ultimately affect percentage of girls getting educated.
Mahesh Karajgaonkar, deputy director of education, said, "These are again a case of statistics not telling the full story. People who go to collect data fill in their forms by simply ticking "girls toilet or boys toilet". But when they go to a boys school it is obvious they won't find a toilet for girls. So by default they enter 'No girls toilet available'." He added that as per his knowledge every school had a toilet in Nagpur district. "It may be that the private unaided ones in remote rural areas are lagging but our government and government aided institutions are complying with the norms," he said.
Karajgaonkar agreed that all was not well with the system. "We may not have adequate toilets and it would be addressed in near future. Our officials are already visiting schools and trying to locate ones that do not comply with the norms," he said.
THAT STINKING FEELING
* About 9% schools in the district do not have toilets for girls
* The Right To Education (RTE) Act makes it compulsory for schools to have a toilet
* Now schools are required to construct toilets to maintain their recognition.
* Experts in the field believe that having proper toilets in schools help in educating children about the basic hygiene habits
* Lack of hygiene can also lead to health hazards for the students
* Absence of toilets can expose children to unwanted lack of privacy
* It also means many parents hesitate to send their daughters to schools
* Some school owners blamed stopping of non-salary grants for the last 10 years for the situation

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