Swachh Bharat: Swachh Vidyalaya is the national campaign driving ‘Clean India: Clean Schools’. A key feature of the campaign is to ensure that every school in India has a set of functioning and well maintained water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. Water, sanitation and hygiene in schools refers to a combination of technical and human development components that are necessary to produce a healthy school environment and to develop or support appropriate health and hygiene behaviours. The technical components include drinking water, hand washing, toilet and soap facilities in the school compound for use by children and teachers. The human development components are the activities that promote conditions within the school and the practices of children that help to prevent water, hygiene and sanitation related diseases.
School sanitation and hygiene depend on a process of capacity enhancement of teachers, community members, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and education administrators. Water, sanitation and hygiene in school aims to make a visible impact on the health and hygiene of children through improvement in their health and hygiene practices, and those of their families and the communities. It also aims to improve the curriculum and teaching methods while promoting hygiene practices and community ownership of water and sanitation facilities within schools. it improves children’s health, school enrolment, attendance and retention and paves the way for new generation of healthy children. It is the role of policymakers, government representatives, citizens and parents to make sure that every child attends a school that has access to safe drinking water, proper sanitation and hygiene facilities. This is every child’s right.
The benefits of water sanitation and hygiene to school children
- The provision of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in school secures a healthy school environment and protects children from illness and exclusion. It is a first step towards a healthy physical learning environment, benefiting both learning and health. Children who are healthy and well-nourished can fully participate in school and get the most from the education. Hygiene education in schools help promote those practices that would prevent water and sanitation related diseases as well as encourage healthy behaviour in future generations of adults.
- Girls are particularly vulnerable to dropping out of school, partly because many are reluctant to continue their education when toilets and washing facilities are not private, not safe or simply not available. When schools have appropriate, gender-separated facilities, an obstacle to attendance is removed. Thus having gender segregated toilets in schools particularly matters for girls. Gender norms and physiology make privacy more important for girls than boys, and biological realities mean that girls need adequate sanitary facilities at school to manage menstruation. Basic facilities that provide for good hygiene and privacy, along with sensitive health promotion assist girls to stay in school and complete their education.
- Hygiene in school also supports school nutrition. The simple act of washing hands with soap before eating the school mid day meal assists to break disease transmission routes. Children get the nutritional benefits intended, rather than ingesting bacteria, germs and viruses. Studies show that when hand washing becomes part of a child’s daily routine the benefits to health are evident and the practice does not easily fade. School is therefore an ideal setting for teaching good hygiene behaviours that children can also carry home.
- Having safe water, toilet and hygiene facilities in schools promotes equity. All children are equal in their right to access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and all children gain benefits through the improved hygiene practices promoted in schools. By providing gender-segregated toilets, students are assured of privacy and dignity, a particularly important factor for girls’ school attendance. By providing inclusive and accessible facilities, children with special needs are able to attend school and further contribute to the development of their society.
- Having a clean school fosters a child’s pride in his or her school and community. It enables every child become an agent of change for improving water, sanitation and hygiene practices in their families and within their community. School water and sanitation clubs encourage students to participate in taking care of latrines and handwashing stations, and in providing safe water where necessary. Club members create rotating lists of responsibilities, sharing sanitation- and water-related chores among both boys and girls. This also fosters pride and ownership, and it counteracts the belief that these tasks are only for women and girls or particular social groups.
- Children with disabilities are also vulnerable to dropping out of school. Accessible school facilities are a key to school attendance for children with disabilities. An effective water, sanitation and hygiene programmes seeks to remove barriers by promoting inclusive design – user-friendly, child-friendly facilities that benefit all users, including adolescent girls, small children and children who are sick or disabled. Toilets and handwashing facilities, for example, need to be customised to fit children’s smaller size, and water, sanitation and hygiene facilities that are traditionally designed for the ‘average’ child must consider the fact that children have a wide range of abilities and needs. The most cost-effective way to improve access for all children is to incorporate accessibility into the design from the outset, rather than making expensive changes later. To make sure facilities are accessible, it is essential to involve children with disabilities in the design process. The cost of making inclusive facilities is minimal compared to the costs of exclusion.
Swachh Vidyalaya – The Essential Elements
Every school in the country must have a set of essential interventions that relate to both technical and human development aspects of a good Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programme.
Following is a set of these essential elements:
- Separate toilets for boys and girls, with one unit generally having one toilet plus 3 urinals. The ratio to be maintained is preferably one unit for every 40 students.
- Menstrual hygiene management facilities including soap, adequate and private space for changing, adequate water for cloth washing and disposal facilities for menstrual waste, including an incinerator and dust bins.
- Daily handwashing with soap before mid day meal
- Sufficient group handwashing facilities allowing groups of 10-12 students to wash hands at the same time. The handwashing station should be simple, scalable and sustainable, relying on usage of minimum water. These handwashing facilities can be developed using local materials.
- Group handwashing with soap sessions are conducted before the mid day meals are served, and are supervised by teachers, who emphasise good handwashing techniques. The handwashing sessions are used as an opportunity for delivering hygiene messages, especially the message that hands should be washed at two critical times: before eating and after using the toilet. The sessions can also be used to deliver messages on sanitation and drinking-water safety. Adequate time allocation (preferably 10-12 mins) before the mid day meal time, to ensure that every child and teacher can wash hands with soap, conveniently.
- Daily provision of child-friendly and sustainable safe drinking water and adequate water for handwashing. In addition water for school cleaning and also food preparation and cooking. Safe handling and storage of drinking water should be practiced throughout the school.
Operation and maintenance
All water, sanitation and handwashing facilities need to be clean, functional and well maintained to ensure that the intended results are achieved and capital investments made in installing these systems are not lost. Annual Maintenance Contracts can be issued, which will include regular maintenance of facilities, regular supply of cleaning materials, consumables like soap, disinfectants, brooms, brushes, buckets etc. The AMC may include identification of repair tasks and arrangement for repair facilities. Alternatively some local arrangements can be made, which can include appointment of local sweepers/cleaners, appointed by the school/district, who are provided with a regular supply of consumables.
Regular/daily inspection of water and sanitation facilities by an appropriate group of persons as appointed by the SMC.
Behaviour change activities
- Water, sanitation and hygiene behaviour change communication activities should be part of the daily routine of all children. Hygiene messages may be integrated into the textbook curriculum or may be imparted through supplementary reading materials, activity based learning methodologies or even during the morning assembly sessions.
- Girls must be taught menstrual hygiene management by female teachers in a sensitive and supportive manner and also take steps to encourage and support girls during menstruation so they do not miss school. This involves menstrual hygiene education sessions at school, along with steps to ensure that girls have a private place to wash and change their clothes. Existing facilities will be used in some cases; in other situations, a new facility will need to be constructed. Other steps that can be taken to support girls include stockpiling extra sanitary pads and clothes (such as school uniforms) for emergencies, along with enhanced training programmes for teachers.
It is essential that capacities are improved at various levels within the sector, to develop the right mix of skills, knowledge and experience to facilitate, finance, manage and monitor water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in schools effectively. For example teachers need to understand ways of ensuring equitable use and maintenance of facilities, making sure hygiene is adequately promoted and that monitoring of these elements take place regularly at the school level. Furthermore, new learnings need to be infused in the sector, along with newer ways of programming and implementing a water, sanitation and hygiene programme in schools.
Source: Swachh Bharat Swachh Vidyalaya handbook