- The WhatsApp group will have members from schools without proper toilets
- The city civic body has invited all schools to share ideas and suggestions
- Many private schools may find it difficult to deal with the expenditure
Being a national level sanitation mission, it was made clear by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the launch of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan that the mission will concentrate not just in the building of household toilets, but also look to improve sanitation in public places, schools and Anganwadis. In the past three years, district administrations across many rural areas in India have taken up initiatives to set up or renovate toilets in government schools for students to have access to safe sanitation. In private schools however, sanitation remains a problem as many private schools are still reluctant to invest in toilets, citing them as costly investments. To counter such attitude, the Nizamabad Municipal Corporation (NMC) has begun a unique campaign to improve the sanitation in city’s private schools.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in a 2015 report titled ‘Statistics of School Education’ estimated that around 43,000 private schools in India remained without proper sanitation facilities and 2,800 schools remain without water supply. Nizamabad Municipal Corporation conducted an inspection in 2016 to check the sanitation status of private schools and found that over 250 private schools did not have clean toilets with regular water supply. Nearly 100 of them did not have separate toilets for boys and girls, prompting many students to hold back from relieving themselves on time and eventually suffer health consequences.
The NMC, on its part, had issued a circular and asked private schools to improve the sanitation condition.
Since the scenario did not improve much in private schools even after a year, NMC decided to launch an awareness camp via WhatsApp. The NMC had earlier in July 2017 asked the District Education Office (DEO) to make a list of schools which were non-compliant with sanitation standards and required urgent attention. The NMC then created a WhatsApp group comprising officials/principals from each of the schools. These schools have been asked to ensure that there is at least one toilet for 30 students in each school. The schools have been asked to share their sanitation experiences, problems and grievances in the same group, as well as post about solutions they are undertaking, so that other schools can learn.
Given how tedious it was becoming for officials to go from one school to another, we decided to form a common group where relevant authority from each concerned school can share their problems and solution ideas. For schools which are struggling to build or renovate toilets, we can exchange ideas on what could be done to better their situation, said Mohammad Sajid Ali, Sanitary Supervisor, Nizamabad Municipal Corporation.
One of the problems for private schools in not only Nizamabad, but all over the country is the absence of proper monitoring by municipalities. Many schools which lack in sufficient toilets issue directives to students, asking them not to use toilets more than once or twice a day, to ensure that maintenance costs are not incurred due to too much usage. Since municipal corporations are not in a habit of carrying out inspections in private schools, many languish in unsafe sanitary conditions.
NMC’s move has been appreciated by schools in the city, but the smaller private schools are still wary of construction and maintenance of toilets given the costs required to do both. Since smaller private schools do not get government aid and are dependent on fees paid by students, regular expenditure on toilets often puts a financial burden on them.
Every school wants proper sanitation for its students a problem as many private schools are still reluctant. For us, students’ fees is our major source of revenue and increasing them regularly is not a healthy option, said an official from Vignan High School, Nizamabad.
The NMC will find it difficult to convince private schools, especially the small ones to build and maintain toilets given the cost factor. On the other hand the municipal corporation can bring on board private companies and NGOs who can assist in the construction of toilets. The inadequate number of toilets in private schools is not just a matter of concern for schools, as civic bodies should also take onus for their inability to monitor sanitation requirements in private schools. NMC’s initiative though a good one, requires active participation from all schools and the municipal corporation itself, if Nizamabad’s private schools are to equip themselves with adequate sanitation facilities.