Nearly all of India’s schools have some sort of sanitation facility, but is that enough?

  • In a joint report by the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), India's education system has shown a surge in sanitation facilities.
  • Until a decade ago, it was only half the schools with some sort of solution which has now increased to nearly all the schools in India having some sort of sanitation facility on campus.
  • While this may be good news, India still has a long way to go in terms of providing even the most basic of hygiene solutions in schools.
India’s education system, until recently, was plagued by the absence of sanitation facilities. But, as per a new joint report by the the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), the scenario has changed drastically.

As per their analysis, nearly all of India’s school now have some sort of sanitation facility. Until a decade ago, it was only half the schools in the country that had any sort of hygiene facilities on campus.

In a country like India, sanitation facilities play a key role in boosting female attendance in schools while also creating a healthy learning environment. According to the report, the girls are more likely to miss school when they are on their period if no washroom is provided. That’s five days a month culminating to almost two whole months in a year.

Dedicated washrooms are generally frowned upon in rural areas due to societal perception of solid waste as unsanitary within the areas where people live. India’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (SBA), a mission to clean up the streets and add sanitation infrastructure to Indian cities, could be considered the driving force behind increasing awareness that thwarting that misconception.

Sanitation and India

Progress on this front meets goal 6 of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) which addresses clean water and sanitation. More specifically, goal 6 has a target of ending open defecation by 2030.

More than that, the increase in sanitation facilities meets goal 4, which ensures inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

That being said, the reality of the situation is a little bittersweet. Despite nationally issued guideline on menstrual waste management, only 66% of the schools in India have some sort of menstrual hygiene education integrated into their school curriculum.

While looking into how many schools have bins with lids for the disposal of sanitary materials, the percentages varied from state to state. Developed areas like Chandigarh have bins with lids across 98% of the schools whereas their less-developed counterparts like Chattisgarh only have a 36% coverage.

On top of that, Mizoram is the only state to have functional incinerators for the disposal of sanitary waste in more than 50% of its schools.

Even as something as basic as safe drinking water is only present in 30% of the schools in India. And, only-third of the schools have some form of the most basic types of toilet facilities.

While, the increase and pace of sanitation is encouraging, there are still 900 million children in India who go to school without having anywhere to even wash their hands.

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