| Commissioner & secretary, education, L.S. Changsan, delivers the inaugural speech at the consultation on Friday. Picture by UB Photos |
Sept. 7: Four per cent of the total schools in the undivided Kamrup district lack drinking water facilities, while 14 per cent of these schools lack common toilet for students and 53 per cent of the schools do not have toilet facilities for girls.
“Adequate availability of drinking water and sanitary facilities in a school is essential to create a safe, healthy and comfortable environment for all students,” an expert said during a state-level consultation on “WASH in All Schools: Making it a Reality” in the city today.
The consultation was organised by Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund), Assam, in collaboration with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Assam, today and will continue tomorrow to strengthen the initiatives of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) under the Right to Education Act, 2009. Various officials from different government agencies participated in the two-day consultation.
Speaking on the occasion, Jeroo Masters, chief of Unicef, Assam, said, “Under the Right to Education Act, it is mandatory for all schools to have adequate facilities for clean drinking water and separate sanitary facilities for boys and girls. It is essential that the teachers try to inculcate the healthy habits of washing hands and proper sanitation in children. Once they start practising, these will become their habit for a lifetime. Providing such facilities will also help us to reach out to the public through these children. Once they start using hygienic facilities in schools, they will go home and demand that such facilities be constructed at home.”
The State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT), Assam, has already incorporated education on water, sanitation and hygiene in their curriculum.
But now the major challenge is to actually implement these in reality among schools students. However, unfortunately a large number of schools in the Kamrup district as well as other districts of the state, either lacks drinking water and hygienic sanitation facilities or the existing facilities are non-functional.
Besides, the toilets and water sources are poorly maintained and the technology and design used in constructing toilets in many schools are not child-friendly.
“We have to identify the schools in rural and urban areas where either these facilities do not exist or are not functional. Then the school administration together with the department concerned has to take prompt action to create the right kind of infrastructure to make them available to children. That these facilities are maintained and used properly will also have to be monitored at different levels,” Masters said.
The secretary of the state public health and engineering department, H.K. Bora, said the state government would take the necessary measures to facilitate the arrangement of drinking water and sanitation facilities in all schools.
In fact, lack of separate sanitation facilities for girls is one major reason for teenage girls missing regular classes for a few days every month.
“Most girls miss an average of three to five days of attendance in school every month. This accounts for loss of attendance around two months a year. This is because they do have access to separate hygienic sanitation facilities in schools that can ensure privacy and menstrual hygiene management and practices, especially during their menstrual cycle. Access to these facilities will guarantee a good percentage of attendance of girls in classes,” Mamita Bora Thakkar, WASH specialist from New Delhi, said.