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One In Four Toilets Constructed In Rural Elementary Schools Are Dysfunctional: Report

According to the data collected for the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), it was found that only 68.7 per cent of government schools in India had working toilet facilities for students, reason being that the prime focus is on the availability of toilets and not on its functionality

Senior Offcial Param Iyer Says Large Number Of People In India Still Defecate In Open Despite Equipped With Toilets
  • A data states that only 68.7% government schools have working toilets
  • Government agencies do not collect data on usable toilets
  • Lack of toilets is a major reason behind girls dropping out of schools

By Ranajit Bhattacharyya & Aadarsh Gangwar

In 2016, as many as 96.5 per cent of rural elementary government schools had toilets, but more than one in four (27.79 per cent) were dysfunctional or locked, according to data collected for the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). Only about 68.7 per cent of schools had working toilet facilities for students. In 2016, the ASER survey was conducted in 589 of 619 rural districts, and surveyors visited 17,473 schools. ASER has been collecting data on water and sanitation infrastructure in schools since 2009.

The proportion of schools with toilets increased 7.43 percentage points from 2010 to 2016. Functional toilets have increased 21.45 percentage points in the same period. But the rate of progress is now slowing, and government agencies do not collect data on usable toilets.

The National Sample Survey, the District Information System for Education (DISE), and the Census, which are the main sources of data on water and sanitation-related indicators, do not measure the usability of sanitation infrastructure.

Also Read: 75th National Sample Survey Kickstarts, To Include Data On Government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

The working and usage of sanitation facilities is ignored because of an overemphasis on the availability of this infrastructure. In states where the gap between availability and functionality is massive — a common occurrence in north-eastern and central states — focusing only on availability of toilets can be misleading.

For instance, if only availability is considered, 95.35 per cent of government elementary schools in rural Uttar Pradesh in 2016 were observed to have toilets. But if we look at the functionality of these toilets, we find that only 54.83 per cent were reported to have working toilets.

The percentage of schools with toilet facilities, in terms of availability has been reported in the high nineties for the past few years, which lines up with the vision of universal sanitation in schools.

But this encourages complacence about water and sanitation. When we look at data on working toilets, we realise that India is far from achieving near-perfect, universal sanitation in schools.

Also Read: Funding Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Banks and Micro-Finance Institutions Have A Crucial Role To Play In Supporting Rural Sanitation In India

For instance, in Mizoram, slightly more than one in two schools (54.88 per cent) were found to have dysfunctional or locked toilets. A similar situation was observed in Manipur (47.19 per cent), Meghalaya (45.74 per cent), and Nagaland (45.24 per cent).

This gap between usability and availability is also observed in states that have better development indicators. In Kerala, 100 per cent of schools had a toilet, but 18 per cent were found to be unusable in 2016. Further, access to working toilets reduced over time.

In the context of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan-Gramin (Clean India Campaign-Rural) and Swachh Bharat Swachh Vidyalaya (Clean India Clean School) measuring usability of sanitation infrastructure becomes even more important. Broken toilets do not bring us any closer to realising the vision of Swachh Bharat (Clean India).

While a growth in the percentage of schools with working sanitation provisions has been reported over time, this improvement is slowing across most states, even as sanitation has been at the forefront of India’s political discourse, and funding for sanitation policies has increased significantly in the past few years.

Also Read: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan 2017 Target: Government To Declare 300 Districts Open Defecation Free By End Of This Year

In Assam, for example, the proportion of schools with working toilets increased by 20 per cent between 2010 and 2012, six per cent between 2012 and 2014, and three per cent between 2014 and 2016. Ideally, the rate of improvement should be increasing over time, if not remain consistent, with an increase in funds. Functional toilets are overall low (33 per cent in 2010, 53 in 2012, 59 in 2014, and 62 in 2016) so the slowing rate of improvement cannot be attributed to the last remaining remote or difficult to access regions.

In Tamil Nadu (with 79.4 per cent of schools with usable toilets in 2016), the reported percentage of schools with working toilets increased by 23 per cent between 2010 and 2012, 12 per cent between 2012 and 2014, and decreased by 0.41 per cent between 2014 and 2016. In Uttar Pradesh, the proportion of schools with working toilets increased by six per cent between 2010 and 2012, by two per cent between 2012 and 2014, and remained stable between 2014 and 2016.

Also Read: Not Just ODF: Here’s How Kanyakumari Is Working Towards Securing The ODF Plus Tag

(In arrangement with, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Bhattacharyya leads the water and sanitation activities of ASER Centre. Gangwar, a student of political science and economics at Ashoka University, recently interned with ASER. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at You can read the report here:

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