All schools must have separate toilets for girls and boys: Supreme Court

Apex court says toilets, drinking water facilities are integral to RTE Act; pulls up Andhra Pradesh government for not ensuring these facilities in its schools

 
By M Suchitra
Published: Monday 17 August 2015

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The Supreme Court has ruled that all schools must have separate toilets for boys and girls, and also facilities for water for drinking and other purposes.  The court's May 9 verdict has made it clear that these were integral to Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009.

"Separate toilets for girls and boys as well as availability of water are essential for basic human rights that enhance the atmosphere where the education is imparted. It can also be put in the compartment of basic needs and requirements in schools," said the court.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation against Andhra Pradesh government. The petitioner, J K Raju, complained that the state has miserably failed to ensure basic amenities in all the schools even when it is bound to implement the RTE Act.

Andhra Pradesh had formulated rules for implementing the RTE Act in 2010. The rules  came into existence in March 2011. The state, however, does not seem to have sustained its initial enthusiasm in ensuring adequate number of teaching and non-teaching staff, classrooms and basic facilities like toilets and water in all the
schools.

The state has schools under the Central government, schools directly run by the state government, schools run by the local bodies, private schools aided by the government and the unaided private schools. As per the 2011-12 figures of the State Education Department, there are more than 100,000 schools catering to 13.32 million school-going children.

The state has almost hundred per cent enrollment in class one but it faces challenges in retaining the students in schools. According to the state education department, more than 16 per cent students drop out in the primary level and about 25 per cent students leave school in the upper primary level.  Dropout rate is very high in tribal areas with about 40 per cent dropout rate in primary and 55 per cent in upper primary.

Activists in the education sector have been pointing out that the high dropout rates are an outcome of lack of basic facilities in the schools like toilets and water. A survey done by M V Foundation, a non-government organisation working in education sector has revealed that many schools even in Hyderabad, the capital city, lacks separate toilets for boys and girls. The survey had found that in some schools girl students leave soon after the mid-day meal for their homes since the schools lack toilets and water. In tribal areas schools lack toilet facilities even for teachers.

The e court had, in October 2012, directed the state government to provide within six months separate toilet facilities for boys and girls, drinking water facilities, sufficient classrooms, appointment of teaching and non-teaching staff in all schools. The court had made it very clear that the directions were applicable to all the schools, whether state-owned or privately-owned, aided or unaided, minority or non-minority.

The Andhra Pradesh government informed the court that there had been some compliance of the court's judgment as well as provisions of RTE Act, but sought more time to fully implement the directions. The state's submission was that it had a large number of schools so it would only be able to install all facilities in a phased manner.

However, the court rejected this submission. "We fail to appreciate the Andhra Pradesh government's explanation. When the young children go to school and they do not have essential facilities, drinking water and separate toilets and the requisite teaching and non-teaching staff who impart education subject-wise, in our considered opinion that would be causing a dent in the system of imparting education."

"Once there is an impairment of imparting education, needless to say the country would not be in a position to produce the conscientious and progressive citizens for this country," it said.

The court has directed the state's principal secretary for education to file an affidavit explaining the exact situation in the state.  The court has asked the principal secretary to be personally present for the next hearing scheduled for July 7.


Order: Order of the Supreme Court of India regarding the provisions of Right to Education Act, 2009, 09/05/2014

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