It is imperative to stress the importance of hygiene and sanitation from a young age; though sanitation and hygiene in schools, especially in India, is not given much importance. Sanitation is considered as one of the most challenging sectors to improve upon. An effective hygiene and sanitation requires an even stringent and effective public policy where schools under various government programmes can improve the appalling condition of Indian schools.
Supporting children’s right to clean and healthy surroundings, such as toilets and safe drinking water along with information on hygiene, positively inspires a generational change in the attitudes and behavior of a society. Schools, after the families, are the best demonstration centers to bring about such positive changes on a sustained basis. Hygiene is necessary for a child’s health, safety, and development. This applies particularly to schools in rural areas since they may lack certain facilities; as an example, the media often highlights periodic instances of students being forced to defecate in open. Without access to sanitation facilities, including clean water and toilets, and without hygiene practices like hand washing with soap, children may get sick.
There is a need to include hygienic practices in the school curriculum and to teach children about the importance that hygiene plays in their lives. In educational institutes lacking such amenities, separate hand washing stations and drinking stations should be setup with proper drainage provided for safe disposal of waste water. This highlights the importance of sanitation, another area where schools need more investment. The lack of adequate water impedes hygienic behavior, allows the toilets to remain both dirty and unfit for use. Schools should celebrate Global Hand Washing Day, as events like these provide special impetus to the cause and spread more awareness.
Additionally, it is important to distinguish between the separate needs of boys and girls. Often, schools have poorly designed facilities for girls, disregarding the consideration for the disposal of menstrual wastes; in some areas, girls even drop out from schools because of lack of sanitation facilities. Government schools lack way behind private one’s in terms of sanitation facilities, an area where the Government literally has to clean up its act; additional funds need be allocated to construction of adequate urinals and lavatories in accordance with the strength of the school. Parents should choose schools that offer proper sanitation facilities for their children, along with the other, more typical factors such as distance, school reputation, and so on; this will also force those schools found lacking to provide these very important facilities. Pilot projects can also help in this, by providing schools effective areas where they can work upon to improve the condition. Such projects have been neglected from a long time, thus hampering the overall state of schools in India.
Hopefully with the initiation of programmes like the “Swachh Bharat” (Clean India Initiative), our schools can also have a better fate and can look forward to improved facilities which are paramount to success. Importance must be given to improve the coordination between communities and local schools to ensure proper hygiene standards are maintained in institutes. Above all, the ability to learn is influenced not only by the quality of teaching but also the cleanliness of surroundings, accessibility to potable water, sanitation, and good hygiene practices. To learn well, children have the right to be as healthy and happy as possible. Having clean water and proper sanitation facilities significantly contribute to a happy childhood. Good co-ordination between government programs and schools can help in the improvement of these facilities. If given due attention, India can truly achieve the dream of becoming a clean and healthy place to live. The mantra, though has to be – My India, my responsibility.