Newly constructed toilets for girls at Government Middle School in Hindpiri, Ranchi. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Three schools are scripting a change that has renewed hope among girl students to return to their classrooms.
Middle schools in Hindpiri, Karamtoli and Nagri have taken the initiative to improve sanitation facilities, the lack of which had forced girls to stay away.
Four new toilets for girls have come up at Government Middle School in Hindpiri, a substantial improvement from the two toilets that they had to share with boys.
Principal Amarkant Pathak said, “In October, we constructed additional toilets. Since then, girl students, who often remained absent, are regularly attending school.”
Of the four new ones, three have been reserved for girl students and one for women staff members. The old toilets have been set aside for boys and male staff.
The result is that now 150 girls — among 345 students of the school — cannot stop gushing about the new facilities.
“Humlog ko bahut mushkil hoti thi pehele, lekin aab naya bathroom ban gaya hai. (Earlier, we had to face a lot of problems, but now new toilets have come up),” quipped Rani Kumari, a fifth grader.
Pathak revealed how the separate toilets had brought about behavioural changes among students towards sanitation and personal hygiene.
The students, too, harped on cleanliness. “Toilets kafi saaf suthra rehta hai. (Toilets are spic and span),” Kumari added.
Government Middle School in Nagri has 394 girls among 715 students. They had to use the nearby fields to answer nature’s call. Now, the girls have three toilets on campus.
Principal Ajay Kumar said, “Earlier, we had only one toilet which was for boys and male staff. As a result, several parents were reluctant to send their daughters to school. Their drop out rate was increasing.”
Construction of new toilets, exclusively for girls, was the only way to curb the drop out rate. “Indeed we have managed to bring the girls back to school,” Kumar said.
Teacher Jasinta Kacchap, who is in-charge of maintaining the girls’ toilets, said: “We have used posters, games and other activities to inculcate hygiene practices among students.”
S. Prasad, the principal of Government Middle School in Karamtoli agreed that construction of three new toilets for girls and two for boys had brought about a marked improvement in attendance figures.
The cradle has 400 students, of which 186 are girls.
“Our children, not only attend school regularly, but maintain a healthy environment by strictly following hygiene practices,” Prasad said.
As per Unicef India’s school sanitation and hygiene education (SSHE) project, there should be separate toilets for boys and girls in all government cradles.
However, in absence of proper monitoring, majority of state-run schools lack toilet facilities. “We have appointed district-level heads to visit schools periodically to monitor qualitative aspects of the SSHE programme,” said district superintendent of education Jayant Mishra.