Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Schools without boys' toilets exposing kids to health hazards

Schools without boys' toilets exposing kids to health hazards

Aparna Nair & Abhishek Choudhari, TNN Jan 31, 2014, 01.29AM IST

NAGPUR: While almost 10% schools don't have toilets for girls, there are almost 4% schools without toilets for boys. With the Right To Education (RTE) Act coming into force, schools now have no wriggle room and need to construct a boys toilet to maintain their recognition.
A senior educationist said, "In rural areas they never gave importance to these things and lack of legislation meant everybody went scot-free. Since it was for boys the usual attitude till 90s was that they can go anywhere. Which is basically what happens in villages but over the last 10 years things have started to change and if these statistics were taken in, say 1999, things would have appeared really bad. By next year you will find there is 100% compliance for these things."
Dr Vagish Katariya, director of Tejswini Vidya Mandir, said, "Providing proper hygiene facilities to the students is one of the basic responsibilities of schools. Having toilets also goes a long way in educating children about basic hygiene habits which should be followed in society. This lack of hygiene can also lead to health hazards for students. Also, not having toilets expose children to unwanted lack of privacy. Innocent jokes can lead to darker humour and also affect the child mentally. In an education system where we don't have much sex education this can have serious consequences."
Anurag Pandey, principal of Suyash Convent said, "It is a very disappointing statistics which I have come across. It is sad that there are schools which do not provide their students one of the most basic needs required for a dignified living. Clean and hygienic toilets are something which should be provided to students. It is a pathetic condition. The schools ought to provide washrooms for students. It can be a huge demotivating factor for kids to come to school and could affect their education.
Mahesh Karajgaonkar, deputy director of education, said, "These are again a result of statistics which do not tell the full story. The people who go to collect data fill in their forms by simply ticking "girls toilet or boys toilet". But when they go to a girls school it is obvious they won't find a toilet for boys. So, by default they enter in the form that there are no boys toilet available." He added that as per his knowledge every school has a toilet in Nagpur district.
"Situation is improving and 99% schools have usable toilets now. Government funds are coming in and through various schemes we are funding projects which focus on sanitation in schools. Gram Swachata Abhiyaan followed by 'Total Sanitation' campaign have helped us to ensure that toilets are being constructed in schools. Now, the data collection is done in Dhiren Kanya School and it is no surprise that there they did not find a boys toilet. It is crucial to read between the statistics as well to understand the reality," said Karajgaonkar.
The government is focusing on these infrastructure shortages with renewed vigour and has promised to crack the whip on erring schools. A clerk in the education department said they were already in the process of completing a compilation of schools violating infrastructure norms after which they will be given grace time to comply or face closure.
The clerk said, "Enough time has been given to all schools already and hence the government is clear that it will start issuing closure notices to all if they fail to meet the deadline."
The next data should be ready by October 2014 and many officials expect to see improvement in the figures.
Relieve students of the trouble
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 believe that having proper toilets in schools help in educating children about basic hygiene habits
Lack of hygiene can also lead to health hazards for students
Absence of toilets can expose children to unwanted lack of privacy
Some school owners said the reasons for this could also be the stopping of non-salary grants for the last 10 years, affecting many projects within the school

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