Ranchi, July 5: In a move that is sure to bring relief to thousands of girl students of Jharkhand, the government has decided to build around 5,000 toilets in schools run by it, the absence of the basic facility in most state-run cradles being the main reason behind the high dropout rate.
The decision, which is in line with an order of Jharkhand High Court that pulled up the state for failing to provide proper loos in schools after taking cognisance of a report published by The Telegraph last November, was finalised at a meeting headed by development commissioner Sudhir Prasad yesterday.
Apart from Prasad, senior officials of the state HRD department, which will function as the implementing agency for the project, were present at the meeting.
“The state will construct 4,999 toilets for students at schools run by it by December 2014. This apart, as many as 2,616 schools will get drinking water facility by the end of this year,” Prasad said.
According to plans, double unit toilets will be built in schools with more than 200 students while those with a strength of less than 200 will get single units. Separate funds will be allocated for maintaining cleanliness.
“The responsibility of maintaining and cleaning the toilets will be handed over to Gram Shiksha Samiti once construction of the facilities is over,” Prasad added.
The government, which had hitherto remained unconcerned about the lack of basic hygiene and sanitation infrastructure in state-run schools, stirred into action after the high court on November 20, 2013, initiated a public interest litigation suo motu on the lack of toilets.
The court’s move came a day after The Telegraph published a report, which examined a Unicef study linking the lack of washrooms to embarrassed and fearful adolescent girls in districts leaving schools for good.
The study on life skills and personal menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls and women conducted in July last year exposed that unavailability of toilets was one of the reasons why girls chose either to remain absent at schools during their periods or simply dropped out.
Unicef surveyed 4,500 respondents in Gumla and East Singhbhum, in which 1,800 were girls. Among girls, 600 had not started their periods, while the rest had.
What emerged was the bald fact that lack of washrooms, a toilet door without a bolt or with a crack, lack of water inside loos are all powerful enough to drive countless girls away from school forever. Sixty-one per cent of girls said they didn’t use toilets in schools.
When asked why, three-fourths of them said the infrastructure was “inadequate”.
Worryingly, schoolgirls said they’d prefer not to go to school if facilities remained elusive.
Some 23 per cent schoolgirls prefer to absent themselves during “those days”. A whopping 93 per cent said they missed at least two days, while six per cent said they stayed at home the entire duration of their periods.
Unicef’s Jharkhand state officer Job Zachariah hailed the government’s move. “Building toilets for students, particularly in middle schools, is very important. Adolescent girls need toilets badly during menstruation,” he said.