Building toilets in rural schools is not enough, they have to be usable too

Around 23 per cent of rural schools have unusable toilets and 11.5 per cent have no separate toilets for girls, finds the 13th ASER report 

By Rashmi Verma
Published: Tuesday 29 January 2019
Sanitation in rural Indian schools
Photo: Getty Images Photo: Getty Images

At a time when villages and cities everyday are being declared open-defecation free and the government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is being credited for it, a report finds that dramatic progress in construction of toilets in rural schools doesn’t imply that they are being used.

Around 22.8 per cent rural school surveyed have unusable toilets, finds the 13th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Rural 2018. It is a citizen-led survey, which was released on January 15, 2019 and studied the status of elementary education in rural India. And, one of the elements it looked at was sanitation and child health.

The study finds that bad infrastructural development, ownership issues, lack of motivation or lack of maintenance are the reasons why these toilets were unusable.

When it comes to providing proper sanitation facilities to girl students, schools in rural India still have a lot to do. Despite the government launching Swachh Vidyalaya initiative under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, 11.5 per cent of rural schools have no separate toilets for girls. While some schools had separate girls’ toilets, 10.5 per cent of them were locked and 11.7 per cent were locked and unusable.

The survey covers 600,000 children in around 16,000 villages and more than 560 rural districts every year and this year the number was 546,527 children in the age group 3 to 16 years.

The picture was not all grim though. The overall progress by all the states in toilet infrastructure development was impressive, especially Kerala, Punjab and Sikkim, which headed the list with 100 per cent toilet coverage in rural schools.

However, the dynamics of usage of the constructed toilets between 2014 and 2018, show negative trends are not sinking well. The ASER report says the working and usage of sanitation facilities is ignored at the institutional level and the situation is concerning in north-eastern states, particularly Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, where the percentage of schools with unusable toilets has been increasing in the last four years.

Schools, which are supposed to bridge the gap between health and hygiene, proper sanitation over there should be of utmost priority.

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